River Time

A fish tale

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

It wasn’t until we’d driven a few miles along a single-lane Forest Service route off of Mt. Baker’s Highway’s Glacier Creek Road that I thought to ask my fellow day-tripper what our final destination was.

“I’m looking for a spot to park near the water,” he replied. “I believe we’re in desperate need of some quality river time.”

Indeed we were. By the time we found a pull-off with an easily accessible trail, I realized how deeply I was craving the kind of solace that can only be provided by sitting still and watching and listening to the sights and sounds of the natural world. 

A giant bald eagle welcomed us with a freakishly close fly-by, causing my significant other to wonder if we’d find any spawning salmon nearby—and positing that the bird of prey might be warning us away from his lunch.

The spot we’d chosen on the north fork of the Nooksack River was on a relatively shallow tributary, but the desiccated salmon carcass near our picnic headquarters proved fish were nearby. And a closer look at the currents in front of us netted a glimpse of a solitary pink salmon working its way upstream.

For more than an hour and a half, I kept a close eye on the swimmer. As we listened to the babbling brook and soaked up the blue-sky views near Excelsior Ridge, some progress was made, but the fish never progressed beyond five or six feet from where we’d seen it originally. At one point, it appeared to be trying to fling itself ashore before sinking back into the murk.

I’ve seen bodies of water packed to the gills with spawning salmon before, but for some reason the sight of a single fish persevering on its final journey was nearly as majestic to witness. Set apart from the run, its strength and tenacity shone through.

Later, when we were headed back down the scenic highway, I saw the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association’s recognizable blue tent at the Thompson Creek Bridge and remembered the conservation group is hosting “Salmon Sighting” gatherings from 10am-12pm Saturdays through September—complete with NSEA naturalists who will be on hand to answer questions and help visitors identify and view the fish as they return from the sea.

From 10am-2pm on Sat., Sept. 2 the conservation group’s Nooksack River Stewards will also host the annual “Fishtival” at the Maple Creek picnic shelter at the Silver Lake Recreation Area. The free, all-ages celebration will focus on why salmon are an integral part of our community in Whatcom County via educational activities, crafts, games, music and more.

After attending, seek out a nearby creek where you can sit quietly and observe the cycle of life and death come full circle. I promise, it’ll be worth your while.

For a full schedule of upcoming outings, go to http://www.n-sea.org/river-steward-events-2017

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