September 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM
A year after blowing up Condit Dam, the White Salmon River has come roaring back.
Artist Elizabeth See’s painting of the White Salmon captures all of its unleashed beauty.
To celebrate the return of the river, a rafting trip, salmon feed and more are planned for Saturday.
The event includes low-cost whitewater rafting trips, a chance to share in a traditional salmon bake prepared by Yakama tribal cooks and updates on the restoration.
The raft float begins at Wet Planet Whitewater at Husum at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. Reserve a spot by calling Wet Planet at 800-306-1673. The salmon bake starts at Northwestern Park at 3 p.m. but tickets are sold out. For more information, visit whitesalmonriverhomecoming.eventbrite.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A steelhead leaps Husum Falls in the spring of 2012, well upstream of the former Condit Dam, which was breached last fall and torn out. Demolition work is finishing up this month.
Photo courtesy Yakama Indian Nation
To learn more about Condit Dam Removal, read my stories in the Seattle Times and Field Notes
September 25, 2012 at 7:00 AM
I discovered the Naneum Rim Trail, No. 1234 in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, earlier this month. Right before it burned to a crisp.
The Naneum Rim Trail offered views and beauty and birds, served up on a canyon rim with views to the far distance.
Douglas MacDonald, photo
Of course when forest fires burn, it is loss of life and property and the dangers of smoke, creating unhealthy air conditions, that capture the headlines. But there are other losses too: of habitat and recreational jewels that it will take generations to replace, if ever.
The Naneum was a special place, where ecological realms came together. There were verdant meadows with wildflowers, but sagebrush, too, with its trademark sharp scent.
There were gigantic larches, glowing with green lichen.
Who could even guess the age of the giant larches along the Naneum Riim Trail?
Douglas MacDonald, photo
On this hike of course I had no idea I would never have a chance to see this place, like this, again. I was lost in the wonder of scarlet tanangers in the trees, and the soft views of a meadow far below the canyon rim.
Naneum Meadow beckons at the bottom of the canyon, soft and green.
Douglas MacDonald, photo
The Table Mountain fire is still flaming away, as it has since mid-September. This pretty place sits right in the middle of all the orange in the Forest Service’s online map that depicts the current locations of the fires.
As I looked at the map, I knew this place, which I so loved and looked forward to exploring further, would not be there to return to.
There will be something else of course, the beginning of the newest of starts. But it won’t be that soft, pretty place we found just by accident, stretching our legs on the way back from a camping trip. Just days before it would be gone as we knew it, to enjoy again.
September 22, 2012 at 7:00 AM
It’s back: the bewitching touch of fog in the morning, ghosting over Puget Sound and winding through trees, buildings,and shimmering in the morning sunlight. Sometimes not dissipating until late in the afternoon, it converts even the most ordinary view into a dreamscape.
Cranes on Seattle’s waterfront are lost in the fog on Friday afternoon as arctic sea smoke graces the city.
Photo by Linda Shaw
Called arctic sea smoke, the morning fog is a product of temperature differentiation. Cooler morning air arriving with the turn of the season is hitting water still warm from summer. As they collide, the moisture from the water’s surface condenses out of the colder air, creating thick fog over water bodies such as Puget Sound. Ponds steam. Lakes smoke. It’s a delight particular to fall, which arrives today.
September 20, 2012 at 7:00 AM
John McMillan, biologist with NOAA Fisheries Northwest Science Center is spending his fall in a way many would kill for: his job is to go out with other monitoring partners working on the Elwha River restoration, including Raymond Moses, fisheries staff from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to look for spawning redds and fish utilizing river habitat opened up by taking out the Elwha Dam last March.
Raymond Moses of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s fisheries staff braves the cold waters of Little River, a tributary of the Elwha River above the former Elwha Dam site, during a June steelhead spawning redd survey. Moses toughed out about 2.5 miles of back country stream survey in waders.
John McMillan photo
Lucky for the rest of us, John is also an extraordinary photographer. The result is his recent book, May the Rivers Never Sleep, by John and his dad Bill McMillan, just out from Amato Books. The book follows the changing seasonal ecology, month by month, of some of the most beautiful rivers in the region, including the Elwha.
And then there is this photo, not previously published: John’s portrait, up close and personal, of some of the first chinook returning to the Elwha watershed as the dams come down.
A female chinook in the Little River, a tributary of the Elwha, for the first time since Elwha Dam was built in 1910.
If you are wondering what Elwha restoration looks like, this is one of its faces.
Photo by John McMillan
September 16, 2012 at 9:00 PM
Scientists were atop Mount Rainier recently, servicing an array of volcano monitoring equipment.
Jon Connolly, left, of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network atop St. Andrew’s Rock on Mount Rainier with Marc Biundo of the USGS to service volcano monitoring equipment.
Photo courtesy USGS
Mount Rainier is, to be sure, one of life’s most beautiful work stations, an angel’s redoubt high in the sky, which the team happened to deploy to during some of the most beautiful weather of the year last week.
“We were practically down to tee shirts,” said Jon Connolly, a software engineer with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, of the University of Washington, which provides seismic monitoring of the mountain in cooperation with the Cascades Volcano Observatory at the USGS in Vancouver, Wash.
Connolly flew in last week to St. Andrews Rock, on the west side of the mountain, between the Tahoma and Puyallup glaciers — what may be the highest seismic site in the contiguous U.S., to work at servicing equipment at about 11,000 feet.
“All three of us got sick on the first day,” Connolly said. He mounted GPS antennas and solar panels and hefted batteries. But what a work site.
“It’s beautiful, you are in the middle of two active glaciers. You can see Mount Adams and Jefferson and Mount Hood. All day long you hear the booms and cracks of the ice calving, It’s an exciting place to be.”
That high, there are no trees of course, no sign of humans, not even much wildlife – though he did see lots of signs of goats. And the mountain is incredibly active.
“There are landslides all around us, and ice avalanche, it is just a wild and adventurous place to be. Signs of goats everywhere.”
The St. Andrew’s station is a particularly beefed up detection site, run with about 20 batteries. “It takes quite a beating over the winter, it looks like it had been overrun by a glacier,” Connolly said. Most likely, it was.
To see his amazing photos from his trip, check out this link.
For more photos, enjoy this suite of images on the USGS-CVO website.
September 14, 2012 at 12:00 PM
On Sept. 17, 2011, the region celebrated and the world watched as the largest dam removal ever in history got underway. Actually started a couple days earlier with the first whacks taken at Glines Canyon Dam on Sept. 15, dam removal on the Elwha has been proceeding ever since with dramatic results.
This spectacular photo taken by NOAA biologist John McMillan to me says it all. The Elwha watershed is coming back to life.
A dipper eats a coho egg on the Little River, a tributary of the Elwha. Salmon in all phases of their lives are expected to feed all kinds of animals and even the soil in the Elwha watershed.
Photo by John McMillan, biologist with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. To enjoy more of his spectacular work see the book he and his father Bill McMillan have just published: May the Rivers Never Sleep, just out from Amato Books.
Getting that photo was a special moment, McMillan said. He shot the photo on the Little River, a tributary of the Elwha last November, where coho salmon he had helped relocate from the lower river were spawning. “I had to sneak up on it,” he said of the dipper. “He or she ate five or six coho eggs and most of them very quickly. But this one he or she was just sort of savoring, holding it like a glass of fine wine in the hand. In that moment he or she had the egg in its mouth for about three seconds.”
In addition to being an amazing photo, it was also a special moment that demonstrated the broadening reach of the river’s restoration, beyond fish, to nurturing more species. “It is ecology as it should be,” McMillan said. “It is how things used to be, and hopefully, will be in the future.”
As a scientist working on the restoration, it was also nice to see concrete results. “It makes you feel a little more at peace in the world, you see a little bit of change taking place. You spend so much time doing science, it is nice to see results. One of those little reward moments in life.”
Fish have already been tracked using the habitat returned to them since Elwha Dam was taken out last March. Some fish were relocated to tributaries of the river from its lower reaches, but others found their way into the river on their own.
One of the first chinook spotted in the Elwha after the lower dam was removed in March. The fish was seen inside the boundaries of Olympic National Park last month — where chinook had not been since the building of Elwha Dam beginning in 1910.
Photo: John McMillan
To mark the one year anniversary of the start of dam removal, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is hosting poetry readings and a traditional dance performance at its downtown Port Angeles heritage center, and a guided tour of the Elwha River by tribal elder and restoration director Robert Elofson. All the events are free and the public is invited by the tribe to share the first anniversary of dam removal with some of the people who fought for it the longest.
To participate in the river tour, meet Elofson at tribal headquarters at 2851 Lower Elwha Road in Port Angeles at 9 a.m. Monday. You’ll need your car to follow Elofson to various spots along the river where he will talk about the restoration project.
The poetry reading and other events will kick off at 5:30 p.m. at the Elwha Klallam Heritage and Training Center at 401 East First Street, in Port Angeles, with readings starting at 6, followed by a performance by the Elwha dance group.
The park service also will be continuing its tours of the former Lake Aldwell throughout September, due to overwhelming demand. The walks are free and begin at the old boat launch at the end of Lake Aldwell Road, which turns off Highway 101 just west of the Elwha River bridge. Wear sturdy walking boots and be ready for lots of sun and wind. The Elwha Discovery Walks last about one hour. For more information, call the Elwha Ranger Station at 360-452-9191.
The walks are offered on Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The walks are a fascinating look at the shifting sediments on the lake bed, the river re-establishing itself in its channel, and century-old stumps exposed by the draining of Lake Aldwell, the former reservoir behind Elwha Dam.
Meanwhile dam removal is on schedule to be finished in half the time originally forecast, with Glines Canyon Dam gone perhaps as soon as March, That would have the dams out in 18 months, instead of three years as originally projected.
This spectacular aerial taken by photographer Tom Roorda on September 2 shows a vastly diminished Lake Mills puddled behind what is left of Glines Canyon Dam.
Blasting at Glines is back underway after a long pause to minimize disturbance to migrating fish.
The biggest loads of sediment to the river so far have been seen after getting Elwha Dam out in March. But the river has cleared significantly since then. The big dump is yet to come, as work continues on Glines. We’ve only seen a tiny percentage of what’s coming because most of the 24 million cubic yards of sediment trapped behind the dams was always stuck behind the upper dam.
Dam removal on the Elwha may be complete as soon as next March with the final removal of Glines Canyon Dam — way ahead of initial projections.
Photo courtesy National Park Service
To learn more about the $325 million Elwha restoration project, read our special report in the Seattle Times.
September 13, 2012 at 2:01 PM
A work party kicks off what is intended as a multi-year restoration effort Friday from 1 to 4 p.m in Tukwila on the shoreline of the Duwamish behind the Boeing Employees Credit Union financial center in Tukwila. Joining in will be partners in the effort, the City of Tukwila and Forterra (formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy.)
There are lots of habitat restoration projects all over the region, led by many groups. This one is a little different in that it is a business-led effort put up as a challenge to other businesses in the area to pitch in as volunteers to help restore the river they call home.
The idea is to yank out invasive plants — Himalayan blackberry, for one — and clean up 150,000 square feet of shoreline along the Upper Duwamish, about 1.5 miles of riverbank. The effort got started as the brainchild of BECU employee Mike Arizona, who in 2010 began organizing groups of coworkers to rid the company’s headquarters property adjacent to the Duwamish of invasive plants.
BECU employee Mike Arizona started working to get invasive plants out of the company’s headquarters property as a volunteer back in 2010. While some clean up work is highly technical and expensive, there is nothing complicated about yanking out blackberry, and it helps restore the shoreline to native plants.
Photo courtesy BECU
Before work on the shoreline behind the BECU headquarters building, along the Duwamish. Photo by Mike Arizona
And after. Here is the same property, after clearing invasives. What a difference some effort makes. Photo by Mike Arizona
All tools and snacks for the work party will be provided. More than 80 volunteers had already signed up as of Thursday from businesses ranging from Otis Elevator to the City of Tukwila and American Medical Response.
The city of Tukwila is providing staff time, tools and more for the Challenge.
Sign up to participate on Forterra’s website or on contact email@example.com
Or, just show up. Volunteers will be on hand to point the way to the restoration site.
September 13, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Celebrate the graceful flight of the swifts in Monroe, where they can be enjoyed at a community gathering this Saturday evening at the elementary school where they swoop dramatically into their chosen home, an old chimney where their flight has delighted people for years.
Thousands of Vaux swifts prepare to swoop into their home: a four foot square brick chimney at the old Frank Wagner Elementary School.
Photo by Dean Rutz, Seattle Times staff photographer
After swishing through twilight skies for hours, the birds will all at once funnel into the chimney for their night, a dramatic and beautiful sight not to be missed.
Begun as a couple of lawn chairs on the grace, the annual Monroe Swift Night Out put on by community volunteers has grown to a destination event that this year features a spaghetti feed, a lecture and docents to explain the birds’ behavior.
The spaghetti feed is at 5 p.m.;the lecture at 6:30 p.m. at the Frank Wagner Auditorium, and docents will be on hand from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to answer your questions.
The location is the old Frank Wagner Elementary School at 639 W. Main St., Monroe, in old town Monroe, between Kelsey Street and Dickinson Road.
The colony at of Vaux’s swifts at Monroe is estimated to be one of the largest in the country, with some some 20,000 birds. They spend most of their day feeding on flying bugs — and each bird may devour tens of thousands of insects a day — quite a feat for a five inch long bird.
The swifts’ preference for the chimney for a roost is due to their lack of a back claw: they need a rough surface they can cling to for the night, and bricks suit them just fine.
I visited the chimney in 2008 and was enthralled by the sight of the birds in such profusion organizing themselves into their final swoop in to the chimney. Just as lovely was their flight catching bugs in the twilight. Here the story I wrote in The Seattle Times. I recommend taking a blanket, lawn chair and binoculars and planning to spend the evening. The weather is supposed to be perfect.
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