Chinook return to the Green River Gorge
On Sunday my husband and I finished up hiking my last section of river from highway 169 to Flaming Geyser and had walked and swam in that section of river. We didn’t see any salmon during our hike. On Wednesday, as I was standing on the shore of the Green River in the gorge, I received a call from a fisherman friend of mine. He said “They’re here!” I looked out into the deep green water in front of me. I didn’t see any fish. But I hadn’t really been looking because I hadn’t expected them so soon. I suddenly had to reorganize my plans. They weren’t on my schedule I was on theirs. Dropping everything, I said I’d be up to meet him within an hour. I set off on my hike up out of one place in the gorge and into another.
I met him at Kanaskat State Park. He took me out to one of his fishing holes and pointed out where they were staging in the river. He pointed to a large rock. I could see the rustle of fins breaking the surface of the river around the rock. He said they won’t be here for long. They are getting ready to spawn.
The next morning I left home before dawn and drove out to Kanaskat just as the sun was rising. I had to take this time before work to drop my underwater camera into the river in the hope that I would catch images of these incredible fish.
The morning was fresh and clear. A soft white fog hung just above the trees down stream. The sun lingered before reaching up above the trees. There in the current was the constant rustle of the salmon as they staged in the river’s current and slack water. I started capturing images in the shade. As the sun rose, prisms of sunlight pierced the water and added light beneath the river’s surface.
I watched as an ancient ritual replayed itself in the deep green waters of the Green River Gorge. Salmon returning from the ocean. Turning south into Puget Sound to enter the mouth of the Green-Duwamish river.
They return, having survived their journey. They have escaped ocean predators. They survived the pollution of the Duwamish river downstream (There is hope for the Duwamish). They pushed up through the channelized canal of river lined with blackberry brambles through Tukwila, Kent, and Auburn (Regreening the Green River). Then through the transitioning landscape from urban to rural farm land, and then finally forest as the river exits the gorge.
It is like a soft breath. The air after a rainstorm. A stretch upon awakening. The water clears and the temperature of the water lowers as the shade of forest and sandstone cliffs rise along the shoreline. Small and large springs tumble down from underground channels that surface as the landscape above, slopes towards the gorge. The cold water springs feed the river with water all year round.
The salmon come like they have millions of times before. Pushing on through thousands of years of human history and a constantly changing landscape to the home of their ancestors before them.
As I watch this ritual of renewal I realize that we can no longer take them for granted. Each of us, as humans, can consciously change our own course and act as stewards of our river; our salmon; our shared future.
The song that accompanies the video is called “Ancestors” by Bruce Cockburn.
Where to see Chinook Salmon this weekend
Current best place to view returning salmon in the Green River Gorge. Kanaskat State Park along the trails that follow the river. Grab a map at the entrance and explore the trails along the river and look for salmon. http://parks.state.wa.us/527/Kanaskat-Palmer
Learn how to identify Salmon: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animals-and-plants/salmon-and-trout/salmon-watchers/gallery.aspx
For more information on how you can help salmon and the Green-Duwamish River visit:
Green River Gorge
Washington State Parks Foundation. Want to see Washington State Parks develop trails and purchase more land along the Green River Gorge Greenway? You can donate to the Washington State Parks Foundation and designate the donation to be used for Green River Gorge State Park improvements. http://wspf.org
Black Diamond Historical Society. Volunteer with the to clear trails and preserve historical areas along the Green River Gorge.
Want to help your river? Volunteer at the Duwamish Alive Event on October 22nd: http://www.duwamishalive.org/
Contact King County Parks and volunteer on the Green-Duwamish River. King County Parks
Earthcorps hosts events on the Green-Duwamish. www.earthcorps.org
More technical information
King County Salmon Recovery: http://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/watersheds/green-river.aspx