Let’s Go “Salmoning!”

Witnessing the salmon journey with family

Written and Photographed by Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist

After 12+ months working on our massive Central Cascades Projects, first the acquisition from Plum Creek Timber Company and now development of our comprehensive management plan, it’s time to take a breath and enjoy the amazing natural features of this landscape. It’s time to go “salmoning”.

What’s “salmoning” you might ask? Salmoning is the name my family has given to act of trekking out to view spawning salmon at the end of their long journey from the ocean. It’s one way for two Midwestern parents to raise Northwestern kids.

This month Chinook and Sockeye salmon are spawning in the upper reaches of the Yakima Basin, in rivers fed by our Central Cascades Forests. The chinook salmon that we viewed began their roughly 500 mile journal from the Pacific Ocean this past spring, up the Columbia River, up the Yakima River, and finally up to their spawning grounds in the Cle Elum River. The Sockeye are present above the dam on Cle Elum Lake thanks to a re-introduction project led by the Yakama Nation. Prior to the completion of the irrigation storage dams in the 1930’s, it is estimated that at least 200,000 sockeye returned annually to the lakes of the Yakima River Basin. 

While current number of Salmon in the Yakima River Basin may be a far cry from historic levels, their presence was enough to elicit excitement and amazement in my family and help us remember why we are working to protect, connect, and restore our Washington forests.

More information:



Electrofishing helps protect salmon

Written and photographed by Kyle Smith, Washington Forest Manager

The Nature Conservancy is partnering with the Quinault Indian Nation to install six engineered logjams on a tributary of the Clearwater River. Engineered logjams simultaneously enhance riparian habitat and manage erosion by introducing large woody debris to stabilize banks.

Last week, I worked with Quinault staff to prepare the site by removing fish from the stream and installing temporary exclusion barriers to keep fish out of the channel during construction.

In the photo above, Dwayne Bighead (right) of the Quinault Indian Nation is sending electric currents underwater to momentarily stun Coho salmon and bring them to the water surface, a technique called electrofishing. William Armstrong (left) and Adam Rehfeld (center) assist with collecting fish.

The logjam installation, which began this week, is part of a larger long-term restoration plan for our conserved land in Jefferson County to improve aquatic and terrestrial habitat. The Nature Conservancy depends on invaluable partnerships with indigenous communities like the Quinault to maximize our efficacy.

Celebrating a River

Written by Cathy Baker, Director Federal Government Relations, The Nature Conservancy in Washington
Photographed by Julie Morse, Regional Ecologist, Jenny Baker, Sr. Restoration Manager & Thomas O’Keefe, PhD Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director, American Whitewater

Under sunny skies and a light breeze, The Nature Conservancy joined Congresswoman Suzan DelBene and key conservation partners to celebrate the designation of Illabot Creek as a National Wild & Scenic River yesterday.   The celebration was many years in the making.  

Illabot Creek is an important tributary of the Skagit River. Located near Rockport, Washington, Illabot Creek is in the heart of the Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area – a preserve that we helped establish nearly 40 years ago.  This area is rich in natural abundance.  Every winter, bald eagles gather there by the hundreds to feed on some of the biggest and healthiest salmon runs in all of Puget Sound.  The area has inspired strong partnerships and significant conservation investments.  Partners have protected more than 9,000 acres of eagle habitat, including more than 10 miles of river and thousands of acres of forests. About 1,300 acres are owned and managed by the Conservancy.  

The Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area is located within the Skagit River Wild and Scenic River System – 158 river miles in the Upper Skagit watershed which were designated in 1978 by Congress due it its outstanding qualities. Illabot Creek was one of the missing links in the Skagit Wild & Scenic River System until Congress passed legislation in December 2014 to permanently protect this important tributary.  

We were so pleased to be on the river yesterday to celebrate this victory with Congresswoman DelBene and our long time partners.  It was a perfect day to drift down the river in rafts, watching eagles and osprey soar overhead and waving to several fishermen who were standing on the banks trying their luck.  We stopped at the mouth of Illabot Creek and heard stories about how the creek is literally chock full of salmon during the fall salmon runs.  

The Nature Conservancy gratefully acknowledges the leadership of our Congressional members who worked hard over seven years to secure passage of this legislation:  Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, Congressman Rick Larsen, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Cantwell.  Big thanks to American Rivers and American Whitewater who partnered with us on advocacy and helped organize the event yesterday.  And a special shout out to all our friends and partners who made time to join in the celebration:  Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki and her husband Mike Janicki, a TNC board member; representatives from Senator Cantwell’s office, Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, Seattle City Light, Skagit Land Trust, Skagit County Parks and Recreation Department, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, North Cascades National Park, North Cascades Institute, and the National Parks Conservation Association.  

Got some time this fall?  Take a drive up to the Skagit Valley and spend some time on the river in Rockport. We expect huge numbers of pink salmon to be making the run back to their natal streams, starting in late September. You can look up the Illabot Creek watershed and know that this stream will remain free-flowing forever thanks to the passage of this recent federal legislation.