To the Salmon, “Welcome Home”
By Tyson Greer, Board vice president, Friends of the Cedar River Watershed
Some things are predictable, like taxes and tides.
Like the tides, the salmon are cyclical: each October, the Sockeye, Chinook, and Coho salmon finish their long journey home—from the ocean, through the Chittenden Locks, through Lake Washington—and plunge up the Cedar River to spawn; so their offspring can begin the cycle again. Each October, I look forward to returning to the Cedar to see the salmon again.
I like all five stations where our Salmon Journey Volunteer Naturalists set up their weekend stations, but last Saturday, my husband and I took our friends Bill & Lois to the Renton Library site. (Find directions to all Salmon Journey’s Volunteer Naturalist sites here.)
Visitors to bridge at the Renton Library leaned over the rail like spectators at a horse race. Below, the bright red sockeyes were jockeying for position next to the females ready to spawn.
They jostled in the shade on the left side of the bank, where the current was a little slower. Occasionally, one would break the surface with a splash and a swack of a shiny tail.
Our highly trained Volunteer Naturalists were on hand to chat about salmon and the Cedar River. We talked with Melanie and Nola, both of whom were veterans of the program. (You can tell how long the naturalists have been with the Salmon Journey program by the number of fish pins on their hats—one pin for each year of service.) Nola and Melanie were incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the waterways, of the uniquely protected watershed owned by citizens that supplies our drinking water, and the cycles of and challenges to our salmon populations—we learn something new every year.
One of the things I love—besides seeing the crowds of returning salmon—are the crowds of people, many sporting the pink polarized “sunglasses” that the Volunteer Naturalists loan to visitors so they can really see the salmon through the (unexpectedly) sparkling sun-lit water. It’s great to see parents bring their kids, and I hope they return every year.
As of June and July this year, only 178,422 sockeye had made their way through the Locks—that’s about half of the 350,000 needed to open the sockeye sports fishing season for this year (source: WDFD). Cedar River Chinook and Puget Sound Steelhead are listed as threatened species.
It is my hope that with the good work our Volunteer Naturalists do in helping people understand more about the beauty of the cycle and what each of us can do as individuals to ensure the clean water so vital to the return and survival of the salmon; we can turn the tide.
Special thanks to those who make this Salmon Journey program possible: our Volunteer Naturalists; our sponsors (King County Flood Control District, City of Renton, Lake Washington Cedar Sammamish Watershed, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Public Utilities, and the US Army Corps of Engineers); and the people who come out on the river to welcome the salmon home.
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