Fishing for the Dead

The waterways teem with salmon spawning this year.  Two locals hiked up Salmon Creek and, one of them, Kyle Keegan wrote this guest post.

I wanted to report our findings from a “citizens salmon survey” conducted by Harry Vaughn and I last Friday. Harry Vaughn is our local fisheries biologist who has been active in wild salmon restoration issues for many years here on the north coast. He and his wife Jan, have been involved in raising awareness about salmon and steelhead in Humboldt County schools, Salmon Creek Community School included. They both live in lower Salmon Creek on his family’s land who settled into the watershed in the early 1900’s. I feel that Harry’s “place based knowledge” is of infinite value to the community and it is always an honor to spend time with him.

In late November, I got out and hiked the Hideaway Hills section of Salmon Creek and was alarmed to not find any signs of Chinook despite record numbers of fish being counted at Van Arsdale Station on the Eel. It had been seven years since I had hiked the river in search of spawners and the absence of them made me realize the increased potential for a local extinction to take place without the community even knowing. The recent high flows of December kept Harry and I out of the water when most of the normal spawning activity takes place, so we have had to wait until flows backed off and water clarity returned.  The Department of Fish and Game has a computerized lottery system that randomly selects local streams and stream reaches to conduct surveys and this year Salmon Creek was selected. In the past, we have mostly relied on their irregular and intermittent surveys to monitor the fish populations of Salmon Creek.  Harry and I both feel that no outside entity could care enough about the health of our watershed than local residents and we’d like to take a proactive stance with observing and taking note of our native salmon runs.  We both agreed that we need to make it a priority in the years to come to get out on the water and conduct citizen surveys in order to build our “local knowledge base” and connect with our community’s mascot species. There is nothing like seeing a 3-4′ long mass of solid shimmering fish carrying out it’s ritual in one’s home place. It’s one of the only experiences I can think of that would entice someone to stand out in a cold drizzle for longer than is healthy, to experience such a sight in person.

On Friday, we started our hike approximately 500 yds above the confluence of Salmon Creek and the South Fork Eel at 9:30am on a frosty morning.  The water clarity was 2-4′ and the river was flowing swiftly and felt strong and full.  Minutes into the hike we caught the dense, sweet smell of rotting carcass which led us to our first Chinook Salmon skeleton of the day! It takes an odd couple of guys to be so thrilled to touch and smell the dank earthiness of a large rotten fish skeleton. This was our first sign of hope that led into many more smiles, laughs and passing around of rotten flesh.

The second and most intact specimen was a 2yr old “jack”. A jack is a young male Chinook that follows the winter runs upstream despite it’s small size. Most of the other fish are 4-5years old and much larger. It is not exactly known why jacks make the journey but it is hypothesized that their young and agile energy ensures a chance to sneak in-between dominate males and spread their sperm on female eggs.  Their alternate age class also may give the species as a whole a better chance of survival over time, amidst unpredictable stream flows and storm events. This particular (21″) dead fish was covered with the feeding aquatic larvae of mayflies– a living example of the important role the carcasses play in nutrient cycling. It is now understood that nutrients from large salmon runs play a crucial role in fostering healthy aquatic insect populations as well as the increased growth rate of riparian trees. Both necessary requirements for healthy juvenile salmon populations, not to mention the Bald Eagles, Black Bears, and other forest creatures that benefit.  A vital link between–ocean, land, river, human, and the complex and interdependent realms of the biotic community.

All together we found 9 Chinook Salmon carcasses, with most of the finds being in the vicinity of Hideaway Hills. Hideaway Hills has historically been utilized by Chinook Salmon due to it’s low gradient reaches and preferred substrate (medium sized cobble) that they like for making their redds (nests). The largest carcass was a 40″ male found where Mill Creek enters Salmon Creek just downstream of the Salmon Creek/Thomas Rd junction.  We did not find any live fish and all of the possible redds were blown-out from December’s heavy rains and sustained flows. All of the carcasses found were wild fish as best as we could tell.

Overall, the stream looked like it was on the continued slow-road to recovery. Dense Alder stands line most of the stream now in areas that were barren a decade ago. Many of the past restoration projects conducted by Jack Monschke were intact and serving the purpose of stream bank stabilization as well as beneficial habitat–the original rip-rap structures now naturalized and fitting into the healing landscape. Redwood trees planted by local crews almost ten years ago are mostly over-head now.  We spotted Common Mergansers (an aquatic fish-eating duck) as well as a Belted King Fisher and plenty of raccoon tracks. I should mention unfortunately, lots of grow-related garbage in the creek and I had wished that we had garbage bags to carry it out despite the hassle it would of been. I feel it’s also important to mention that some ill planned road-building is going on in the lower watershed on extremely steep land directly above the stream course. All of the fill material was dumped over the side of the road-cut and cast directly into the stream in some of the best spawning grounds we have. An estimated, 100 cubic yards or so.  Very sad to see and feel.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be getting out and into the South Fork of Salmon Creek searching for Steelhead. We hope to hike Tosten Creek once again since it was a spectacular place to visit in past years.  Tosten Creek is the “crown jewel” of the watershed as far as habitat goes and is a headwater tributary of South Fork Salmon Creek, where Hacker and Kinsey Creek also come together. It’s low gradient reaches and ideal spawning gravels bring the returns of the most vigilant Steelhead to conduct their rituals under the shaded canopy of it’s cool, clean waters. In 2003, Harry and I were shocked to find Steelhead nesting as far up the small drainage as we could walk. The fish had miraculously passed multiple log jams and waterfalls to get there, almost 70 miles from the ocean! Tosten Creek is perhaps Salmon Creek’s best chance for rearing the endangered Coho Salmon. It’s waters run cold and clear even in the dry years and the forest canopy is fully intact and shaded. Lots of in-stream habitat: logs, cut-banks, and plunge pools. Our hope is that stray Coho will once again find their old home in our watershed and re-establish a viable population. They will undoubtedly require our continued community efforts to work towards water conservation and sediment reduction.  This past year, the South Fork Eel was designated California’s last best chance for the survival of wild Coho Salmon populations.  It is believed to still have the healthiest runs of wild Coho Salmon left in California.  Salmon Creek was recognized as one of the few remaining tributaries to the Eel that has appropriate Coho habitat and could someday once again serve as a refuge to the species. In time, when a stray fish does make it back into our watershed to re-establish a population, we’ll be the first to let you know when and where the party is!

Our intention this year was to find a pair of spawning Chinook and to bring the Salmon Creek Community School kids and parents there to witness the spectacle. The December storms prevented this opportunity.  Our hope is that next year we’ll find a window between storm events, find spawners, and get students and local residents there to experience the thrill with us. It can be hard to connect and work towards the protection and health of something that one has never seen or felt connected with. If anyone is interested in going on any of the stream hikes with us, let me know. We’ll be back out on the stream in February.  The only necessary equipment is a pair of waders/boots. I’ll be working on finding some used pairs so we can get more residents wet and smelling the sweet scent of carcass.

Kyle later added this:

This may be the best news of the winter season thus far for us Creeksters! Thanks to an email from Becky and TJ who live out on the South Fork of Salmon Creek, I got word that, “a carcass of a large fish without a head was found near Bogus Creek”.  It was found by TJ, who was out and walking the stream banks.  I got out tonight just before dark and walked from Bogus Creek upstream about 1/2 mile on the South Fork of Salmon Creek. The river was way-up and discolored and I was alone, so I kept close to the bank to avoid taking a swim. I was having a hard time seeing much with the river being so swollen and just when I thought I should head home empty handed, I spotted the faint paleness of a skeleton in some alders. Sure enough, it was a salmon skeleton that was 32″ long! That was all I needed to keep looking and within another half an hour of searching I found four more carcasses. All appeared to be Chinook Salmon.  The one photo of the fish below was a 33″ female Chinook Salmon.

It was an dreamy experience to find some of the carcasses wrapped around trees that Jack Monschke and I had planted over a decade ago– their fertile flesh feeding energy back into the landscape. I am trying to find out any info as to when the last salmon were seen spawning in the south fork. [Some old neighbors] shared that they have not seen a salmon on the south fork since they have lived there. I think they’ve been living on the creek for over 25 years.  Does anyone have any info regarding this or have ideas as to who to contact?

I believe that the chance for a strong recovery in our watershed is high. The riparian habitat is coming back and many of the slides are stabilizing. Past restoration projects, both upslope and in-stream have improved many sections of the watershed.  New spawning areas have been exposed as sediment moves through the system. Most importantly, a fish-passage barrier was removed in the lower section of the river in 2003, and several new miles of potential spawning habitat now exist.  This may explain why Chinook are making it this far up into the system.

Much of Salmon Creek and it’s tributaries are beginning to become shaded once again helping to cool lethal summer-time temperatures.  The potential for stronger and stronger runs are very real. Seeing water pumps still in the creek today and washed down stream was a reminder that all we need to do is keep working on helping each other to conserve water and the years to come could be something of a new era.  Many new storage tanks and ponds are dotting our landscape which is a great sign, I think.

[Soon] Harry Vaughn and I will be surveying Mill Creek which is a tributary to Main Salmon Creek in the lower watershed. We’re crossing our fingers in hopes of finding a Coho carcass. We just got word after talking with a DFG biologist that they found 3 Coho juveniles in Mill Creek during a survey in 2009. This is outstanding news once again and we plan on keeping a close eye on this small tributary in hopes of finding more signs of this endangered fish.   I’ll keep you all informed of what we find.

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20 comments

  • It feels great even just reading this, thanks Kyle, Harry and Kym!

    Sometimes it feels like the fanatical ideals of the past are dead or dying, but it sounds like they’re rotting and regenerating in the shadows of the new water tanks.

    It fascinates me that the South Fork, which was declared ‘dead’ by Fish and Game in ’95, has become our last best hope today. That’s another measure of how many layers of contradictions life and death happen it. I give up–it’s impossible to be hopeless for long.

    Oh yeah, this reminds me of a great moment at Harry’s fish-mate Bill Eastwood’s 60th birthday celebration, when his wife Gail went on and on about how much she respected Bill for pulling on his slops and charging out into dark, stormy nights to stand hip-deep in floodwaters for hours and weeks on end–but then she glared lovingly at him and admitted, “But then I realized he *enjoyed* it!”

    Thank God some of us are still crazy.

  • According to my family, who have been here for 5 generations up to me. They were here before the floods, and pretty much saw it all. The best thing that you can do for good fish runs and good fish populations is have good strong early rains. Can you do that?

    The back to the land movement was the single most devastating event to happen to the drainages. The real estate people opened up old logging roads that were supposed to be healed and go back to nature. The erosion went unchecked. Salmon creek owes him and his crew a huge debt of gratitude

    Thank-god for people like Jack Monsche, who had the sense to weatherize the roads and help them heal.

  • Can I have a do over? The sentence at the bottom was supposed to go before: “Salmon Creek owes him…

  • Can I have a do over? The sentence at the bottom was supposed to go before: “Salmon Creek owes him…

  • Kyle – Thanks for this excellent report. Talk to Fergie; I remember him finding carcasses too heavy to carry up the hill in the early 70’s. Probably nearly a half mile downstream from Bogus

  • Kyle – Thanks for this excellent report. Talk to Fergie; I remember him finding carcasses too heavy to carry up the hill in the early 70’s. Probably nearly a half mile downstream from Bogus

  • I’ll argue with Ernie about subdivision roads. The floods were the devastating event and they were the result of unrestrained logging. The subdivisions came later and certainly had problems but if you compare subdivided lands to all logged over lands, subdivisions are a small percentage. Poor timber harvesting practices were terribly injurious to the watersheds.

  • I’ll argue with Ernie about subdivision roads. The floods were the devastating event and they were the result of unrestrained logging. The subdivisions came later and certainly had problems but if you compare subdivided lands to all logged over lands, subdivisions are a small percentage. Poor timber harvesting practices were terribly injurious to the watersheds.

  • “I’ll argue with Ernie about subdivision roads”
    Okay I’ll argue with Ben, but it will have to be a friendly argument, because Ben Is one of my A.M.P.s (“Most Admired People”.)

    The logging roads that were placed to bring out the logs were water barred, out-sloped, and the water crossings were removed. The roads were only used in a 40 to 60 year cycle. They thoroughly brushed over and healed after about 5 years.

    The thing that nobody can understand, that wasn’t here to see it, was how hard it rained! I saw it, both in 1955 and 1964. I saw stands of virgin, unlogged timber slide right into the river. Granted the timber practices prior to 1955 were not the greatest. But logging practices after that date took erosion into consideration. The California Division of Forestry inspected every logging show after that time to inspect for erosion possibilities. Forestry was the C.D.F.s main job back then, now it is fire suppression.

    Gleefully, I invite you to check a post that I did on the 1964 flood that includes photos of virgin timber sliding into the river.

    Ben, I promise you that NO amount of timber could have held back the amount of water that came out of the sky. People that saw it still swear that the raindrops were the size of marbles, and it rained for days. The streets of Garberville were impassable rivers, did logging cause that? I’m firmly convinced at this point that you had to have seen it to believe it. Some of the people that saw it can’t believe how hard it rained.
    Check: The 1964 flood

  • “I’ll argue with Ernie about subdivision roads”
    Okay I’ll argue with Ben, but it will have to be a friendly argument, because Ben Is one of my A.M.P.s (“Most Admired People”.)

    The logging roads that were placed to bring out the logs were water barred, out-sloped, and the water crossings were removed. The roads were only used in a 40 to 60 year cycle. They thoroughly brushed over and healed after about 5 years.

    The thing that nobody can understand, that wasn’t here to see it, was how hard it rained! I saw it, both in 1955 and 1964. I saw stands of virgin, unlogged timber slide right into the river. Granted the timber practices prior to 1955 were not the greatest. But logging practices after that date took erosion into consideration. The California Division of Forestry inspected every logging show after that time to inspect for erosion possibilities. Forestry was the C.D.F.s main job back then, now it is fire suppression.

    Gleefully, I invite you to check a post that I did on the 1964 flood that includes photos of virgin timber sliding into the river.

    Ben, I promise you that NO amount of timber could have held back the amount of water that came out of the sky. People that saw it still swear that the raindrops were the size of marbles, and it rained for days. The streets of Garberville were impassable rivers, did logging cause that? I’m firmly convinced at this point that you had to have seen it to believe it. Some of the people that saw it can’t believe how hard it rained.
    Check: The 1964 flood

  • Ben
    Records show that the town of Branscomb, in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Eel river, had over 36 inches of rain from December 1st to December 23rd 1964. On the 18th of December there was over a foot of snow in the Valley of Branscomb and Laytonville, and over 3 feet of snow in the hills. The storm turned into a “Pineapple express” of warm rain. From the 18th to the 23rd, it rained 27.46 inches on top of the heavy snowfall, rapidly melting it. Can you possibly even conceive how terrifyingly hard it would have to rain to do that??? I thought not! Logging caused the flood my ass. Please click on the articles in the post that I linked to, they will blow up to readable size.

    The thing that most of the locals know that nobody else does is that it actually rained more than was recorded due to the fact that EVERY capable person was busy saving themselves and their neighbors, and rain gauges be damned, they were left unattended and they ran over or washed away. Yes, we were terrified!

    Welcome to the South Fork of the Eel. It can surprise even a student of our history like Ben.

  • Ben
    Records show that the town of Branscomb, in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Eel river, had over 36 inches of rain from December 1st to December 23rd 1964. On the 18th of December there was over a foot of snow in the Valley of Branscomb and Laytonville, and over 3 feet of snow in the hills. The storm turned into a “Pineapple express” of warm rain. From the 18th to the 23rd, it rained 27.46 inches on top of the heavy snowfall, rapidly melting it. Can you possibly even conceive how terrifyingly hard it would have to rain to do that??? I thought not! Logging caused the flood my ass. Please click on the articles in the post that I linked to, they will blow up to readable size.

    The thing that most of the locals know that nobody else does is that it actually rained more than was recorded due to the fact that EVERY capable person was busy saving themselves and their neighbors, and rain gauges be damned, they were left unattended and they ran over or washed away. Yes, we were terrified!

    Welcome to the South Fork of the Eel. It can surprise even a student of our history like Ben.

  • Ernie… I certainly agree that the ’64 flood was mighty big, but in the thousands of years previous a number of similar events certainly happened. Despite this, redwoods of great age survived in Bull Creek only to be washed away when the watershed had been logged. The fish survived, survived and thrived through many huge flood events ’till recently. I have never seen an estimate of the vast number of board feet logged between 1950 and 1970 but you can see the results any day, flying into LA. An old time logger once told me, “Choker cable has been stretched over everything you can see out there.” I’m not interested in putting down the timber industry. I’m a carpenter without apology. I rely on timber for a living and loved working with the high quality fir that came from these hills. I’m interested in what actually happened and I believe that the “subdivision roads” explanation, despite the fact that they certainly had a negative effect, is NOT the reason for the decline in fish population. The subdivisions are a small percentage of our watersheds.
    Respectfully, Ben

  • Ernie… I certainly agree that the ’64 flood was mighty big, but in the thousands of years previous a number of similar events certainly happened. Despite this, redwoods of great age survived in Bull Creek only to be washed away when the watershed had been logged. The fish survived, survived and thrived through many huge flood events ’till recently. I have never seen an estimate of the vast number of board feet logged between 1950 and 1970 but you can see the results any day, flying into LA. An old time logger once told me, “Choker cable has been stretched over everything you can see out there.” I’m not interested in putting down the timber industry. I’m a carpenter without apology. I rely on timber for a living and loved working with the high quality fir that came from these hills. I’m interested in what actually happened and I believe that the “subdivision roads” explanation, despite the fact that they certainly had a negative effect, is NOT the reason for the decline in fish population. The subdivisions are a small percentage of our watersheds.
    Respectfully, Ben

  • Ben
    I would be the first to agree that Bull Creek was a man made logging disaster that had no-way-in-hell a chance to heal. But, grant me that great virgin, untouched forests also slid in mass into the rivers. As I said, I don’t object so much to the criticism of the logging as much as I object to the idea that logging had anything to do with the flood, It was rain, I saw it.

    I also want to say here and now that, I appreciate the gentlemanly way that you present your ideas. People could learn a lot from you!

    I, with you, feel that the fish are another story. The recent years with good rainfall have brought back the good fish runs. Also, in history, we had many active fish hatcheries, which supplemented the fish runs. As you know, those hatcheries were washed away and not re-opened after the ’64 flood. In the 70s and 80s The Garberville Rotary Club had a steelhead rearing project that I was part of. Our success was nothing short of phenomenal, yet denied for political reasons. As confusing as it was to us, we were shut down by the Fish and Game. Knowing some of the “in crowd” my inquiries gleaned that the commercial fishing groups had us shut down because they felt that our steelhead were eating the Silvers and the Kings. There is probably some truth in that theory, but one thing that always bothers me about they way people approach things today is they never address their REAL concerns but always do an end-run.

    The end result is that we have no more Steelhead hatcheries in the South fork, and the large salmon hatcheries of the past are gone. I’m not sure if the Redwood Creek group are still hatching fish, but they were small fry (pun) at best.

  • Ben
    I would be the first to agree that Bull Creek was a man made logging disaster that had no-way-in-hell a chance to heal. But, grant me that great virgin, untouched forests also slid in mass into the rivers. As I said, I don’t object so much to the criticism of the logging as much as I object to the idea that logging had anything to do with the flood, It was rain, I saw it.

    I also want to say here and now that, I appreciate the gentlemanly way that you present your ideas. People could learn a lot from you!

    I, with you, feel that the fish are another story. The recent years with good rainfall have brought back the good fish runs. Also, in history, we had many active fish hatcheries, which supplemented the fish runs. As you know, those hatcheries were washed away and not re-opened after the ’64 flood. In the 70s and 80s The Garberville Rotary Club had a steelhead rearing project that I was part of. Our success was nothing short of phenomenal, yet denied for political reasons. As confusing as it was to us, we were shut down by the Fish and Game. Knowing some of the “in crowd” my inquiries gleaned that the commercial fishing groups had us shut down because they felt that our steelhead were eating the Silvers and the Kings. There is probably some truth in that theory, but one thing that always bothers me about they way people approach things today is they never address their REAL concerns but always do an end-run.

    The end result is that we have no more Steelhead hatcheries in the South fork, and the large salmon hatcheries of the past are gone. I’m not sure if the Redwood Creek group are still hatching fish, but they were small fry (pun) at best.

  • In the mid 70’s Redwood Creek Renewal Project (part of Beginnings Inc) established a project to study our watershed (Redwood Creek) . Part of that project was to monitor the
    water(silt,flow,timing) . That project died but the experts are still here and we did get some results. The foods of ‘ 55 and ’64 dropped lots of junk in the creeks . It may well take 100 years to flush this out. My recent measurements demonstrate that the dirt is still flushing out .
    Ben is right , this was caused by massive logging . This denuded the slopes increasing the fast runoff ,which picks up more bed load,which makes the water more slick,which increases the erosive effect as a cube!. This triggered unstable slopes and …..
    Yes, the rain is dropping off due to global climate change but wasn’t the ’64 flood the first of the global warming super storms?
    We in Redwood Creek have worked for years to stabilize the geologic erosion as well as the sediment from roads but it was those roads that helped maintain fire safety . We also
    did fishery work ,reforestation and such .
    Now we need a massive effort to get people to store water for fire,domestic use and agriculture,if we have any hope to save these fish . This is not a given,we may not succeed . I helped run the last Water Day event and hope we can do it again . What I am suggesting is the most massive effort we have ever done on any project . I (and the fish) can only hope everyone will join in .
    Over the years it has been my honor to work with many fantastic ,selfless people .Bill Eastwood of Redwood Creek and Jack Monschke of Salmon Creek are just two of these fine folks but there is a new generation as represented by the likes of Kyle Keegan We should honor them too,they are the future of this effort.

    • The collective efforts of many have resulted in helping to heal our watersheds that support salmon, steelhead and us. The riparian healing that is trapping silt and building soil, enriched from alder roots homes for nitrogen fixing bacteria, is pretty remarkable. Restoration efforts from the 1970’s to present (my involvement period) are resulting in healing of our watersheds. The return of the salmon to the South Fork of Salmon Creek was the result of a modification of a velocity barrier below the forks. The modification was successful in allowing salmonids to pass, while maintaining a velocity barrier to the Pike Minnow (aka squawfish) preventing this invasive species access to the upper watershed. Sometimes light touch and low cost community based restoration gives the best returns on investment. And when a watershed based community invests itself in restoration of it’s own environment it can be rewarded by the return of the salmon for it’s efforts. It’s kind of like a world renewal ceremony, it’s place based. So congratulations to our watershed community for supporting the restoration efforts all these years. The salmon have shown their approval of our collective efforts by returning to a section of our watershed that has not seen salmon since the 1970’s. While agency folk, since the listing of the species under the Endangered Species Act, have made the collective decision to no longer not allow us to continue small place based community salmon and steelhead hatcheries (much of the previous funding supplied by the California Commercial Salmon Stamp Program) our collective efforts at riparian restoration are in some cases working. While we have made some mistakes, and learned some lessons as well with in-stream restoration projects, we have also had some great success stories. The return of chinook salmon to the South Fork of Salmon Creek is one such success. Will we ever see coho salmon in Salmon Creek again, like in the 1940’s? Well that is something we can work towards. Of course with the help of nature providing proper rain event intensity and timing and oceanic conditions. Maybe in the near future the Salmon Creek canyon will again contain the sweet smell of rotting salmon carcasses drifting in the breezes. Probably only perfume to a fisherman, but something I remember smelling from our family mid-slope home on Salmon Creek.

  • In the mid 70’s Redwood Creek Renewal Project (part of Beginnings Inc) established a project to study our watershed (Redwood Creek) . Part of that project was to monitor the
    water(silt,flow,timing) . That project died but the experts are still here and we did get some results. The foods of ‘ 55 and ’64 dropped lots of junk in the creeks . It may well take 100 years to flush this out. My recent measurements demonstrate that the dirt is still flushing out .
    Ben is right , this was caused by massive logging . This denuded the slopes increasing the fast runoff ,which picks up more bed load,which makes the water more slick,which increases the erosive effect as a cube!. This triggered unstable slopes and …..
    Yes, the rain is dropping off due to global climate change but wasn’t the ’64 flood the first of the global warming super storms?
    We in Redwood Creek have worked for years to stabilize the geologic erosion as well as the sediment from roads but it was those roads that helped maintain fire safety . We also
    did fishery work ,reforestation and such .
    Now we need a massive effort to get people to store water for fire,domestic use and agriculture,if we have any hope to save these fish . This is not a given,we may not succeed . I helped run the last Water Day event and hope we can do it again . What I am suggesting is the most massive effort we have ever done on any project . I (and the fish) can only hope everyone will join in .
    Over the years it has been my honor to work with many fantastic ,selfless people .Bill Eastwood of Redwood Creek and Jack Monschke of Salmon Creek are just two of these fine folks but there is a new generation as represented by the likes of Kyle Keegan We should honor them too,they are the future of this effort.

    • The collective efforts of many have resulted in helping to heal our watersheds that support salmon, steelhead and us. The riparian healing that is trapping silt and building soil, enriched from alder roots homes for nitrogen fixing bacteria, is pretty remarkable. Restoration efforts from the 1970’s to present (my involvement period) are resulting in healing of our watersheds. The return of the salmon to the South Fork of Salmon Creek was the result of a modification of a velocity barrier below the forks. The modification was successful in allowing salmonids to pass, while maintaining a velocity barrier to the Pike Minnow (aka squawfish) preventing this invasive species access to the upper watershed. Sometimes light touch and low cost community based restoration gives the best returns on investment. And when a watershed based community invests itself in restoration of it’s own environment it can be rewarded by the return of the salmon for it’s efforts. It’s kind of like a world renewal ceremony, it’s place based. So congratulations to our watershed community for supporting the restoration efforts all these years. The salmon have shown their approval of our collective efforts by returning to a section of our watershed that has not seen salmon since the 1970’s. While agency folk, since the listing of the species under the Endangered Species Act, have made the collective decision to no longer not allow us to continue small place based community salmon and steelhead hatcheries (much of the previous funding supplied by the California Commercial Salmon Stamp Program) our collective efforts at riparian restoration are in some cases working. While we have made some mistakes, and learned some lessons as well with in-stream restoration projects, we have also had some great success stories. The return of chinook salmon to the South Fork of Salmon Creek is one such success. Will we ever see coho salmon in Salmon Creek again, like in the 1940’s? Well that is something we can work towards. Of course with the help of nature providing proper rain event intensity and timing and oceanic conditions. Maybe in the near future the Salmon Creek canyon will again contain the sweet smell of rotting salmon carcasses drifting in the breezes. Probably only perfume to a fisherman, but something I remember smelling from our family mid-slope home on Salmon Creek.

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