What do Orcas and Salmon Have in Common?

They both need clean water to survive. This summer we were struck by the powerful images of a our Puget Sound Orcas carrying a dead baby whale around for two weeks. It tugged at our heart strings and cries rang out to save our iconic whales.

The initiative to save Puget Sound goes beyond just the body of water that constitutes the Puget Sound. Our mountains hold snow that melts. That melt flows into streams that flow into the rivers that empty into Puget Sound. This network of water arteries carries clean water and nutrients seaward.

What happens upstream has a direct impact on the water quality and habitat in our region. That, in turn, has an impact on our salmon, orcas, humans, and other wildlife.

The Green-Duwamish river watershed is one part of a vast network of river arteries that flow into Puget Sound. As a river that flows out of the Cascade foothills it has been tamed by the Howard Hanson dam which supplies the city of Tacoma with drinking water. Below the dam the river flows into the Green River Gorge.

The Gorge, through a recent history of conservation efforts, has remained relatively untouched along its 12 mile corridor. The Green River Gorge conservation is an example of efforts that individuals, organizations, and governments have accomplished through a coordinated effort to conserve important lands within our watersheds. The Gorge is one small section of the entire Green-Duwamish. All along our river is a ground swell of effort to restore, protect, and enhance a river, that at one point in history, was referred to as a lost cause. But not anymore!

Efforts to save our Orcas and our salmon can seem daunting, impossible, and futile, but optimism and hope are reflected in this quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

—Margaret Mead

So look to yourself to be part of the solution by acting locally. We can become of a network of thoughtful committed citizens that can save our orcas and salmon by conserving our local rivers and streams

Reprint from Last Year’s Salmon Season.

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

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.


Live Downstream?

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