Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cedar River Trail Park | Salmon Spawning, Leaves Changing, Sun Shining, & Other Adventures

Hi Colleagues,

Enjoy this pixel-roll of my Fall stroll at Cedar River Trail to see the Salmon spawning in Renton:

Cedar River Salmon Tour Group (above series)


Hanging around for flood season (above)
"Exlore Renton!" That's what I'm doin'
I like to explore (above)

Some years back I filed a mental note to photograph this event as I watched the salmon fight, splash, and spawn with their defeated cousins rotting in nearby eddies.  The water receded quite low that year making it accessible to dry walk mid-river onto the river rock.  There the seagulls plugged remaining flesh off of deceased salmon bones, and a large white salmon skeleton reflected the late Fall sun.

Dramatic.  I thought.  I really wanted to kneel down rock level and photograph close enough for my lens to smell the rotting fish, marvel at the red backs, feel the sharpness of the skeletal frame, and even get wet.

Well this year did not show the same scene, but no year does or should.  Wet, yes, but I'll get to that in a bloggers' minute.

This year I walked at Cedar River Trail to resume my salmon spawning trek, except this time I brought my DSLR camera--the one I didn't have those years ago.  I have always loved the Cedar River Trail and Watershed on par with how much I loved my Renton River Days original shirt to thread-bear when I was 9.  When a teenager I swam with my cousins and the muskrats at river's end where the water lulled its flow as it prepared for its modernized entry into Lake Washington:
The Cedar River is the largest tributary flowing into Lake Washington, contributing about 55% of the inflow.  However, it formerly flowed into the Duwamish River system rather than the lake.  In the early 1900s, the Cedar River was diverted into the lake to increase its inflow, facilitating operation of the Hiram Chittenden (“Ballard”) Locks.  There locks were built to enable large ships to enter the lake, as the former outlet was not suitable for navigation.  In addition, the level of the lake was lowered by about 3 m.  In addition to this large plumbing operation, the river was dammed to provide much of the water supply for Seattle.  The dams prevented anadromous fishes from migrating to suitable habitat in the upper reaches of the river.  Under a Habitat Conservation Plan, drawn up to rehabilitate the fish and other natural resources of the basin, chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout will be passed into the upper watershed.  However, concerns about the effects of sockeye salmon (the most numerous species) carcasses on water quality resulted in a decision to prevent them from migrating to the upper parts of the river.  However, to mitigate for the lost potential sockeye salmon production, the City of Seattle has constructed a hatchery for sockeye salmon, undertook a variety of habitat restoration projects, and built some spawning channels. (UW Source)
I knew the river before the county channelized the river by dredging it (at least twice) to prevent flooding.  When a teenager I inner-tubed down the river in the heat of summer with friends.  The river receded low then, too, so low in fact that we often needed to pick up our inner-tubes and walk across rock until we found 3-4 inches of water, the height of which we determined was sufficient enough to be mostly buoyant.

Balasz (1991)
We are all in this boat together
public art (above)
Renton Senior Activity Center (above)
Now the University of Washington and Friends of the Cedar River Watershed work to restore what natural habitat was undone.  This year, the water covered the salmon well.  Lacking a polarizing filter, I waited for the salmon to splash.  I crossed the river to Jones Park after watching a father lean down and point so his toddler could see the salmon.  Perhaps there I'd have better luck.  In the meantime, I photographed the sun shining through the trees, which, if it weren't so beautiful and inspiring, would be akin to a bad habit, but not quite an obsession. I can't help myself.

Jones Park fared better since the water line was lower.  A couple of salmon carcasses, and several red bodies in the water swimming speedily to stay in place and splashing as they fought each other on occasion to protect their nests.  Ducks loitered noisily nearby until one quacked loudly overhead, dove down, and then bolted away.

The lull of the river always soothes and calls most passersby to its banks to pause and look for a spell (save for those on their cell phones or chatting in groups).  Even so it was time to go.  I know when a frame bonks and so is the last.  I know when I loose an edge.  So I composed and fired one more and turned to leave when my electronics disrupted my calm.

My Android Global 2 fell out of my pocket, broke into 3 pieces (phone, battery, cover), and then bounced in with a plop-ka-dunk. I stood for a few minutes contemplating what I should do ranging from momentary relief and a strange sense of freedom, or "Oh, just leave it," to self-chastisement, or "Should've buttoned my pocket. I knew better!"

It's important to take your time when at the river.  River r-e-s-p-e-c-t means being conscientious of impact:  both my environmental footprint and my safety.  A chain mail fence covered the edge rock and a sheath of slimy brown covered those.  I took off my sandals and socks (yes, I am from Seattle), rolled up my sleeves, slung my camera on my back, and carefully climbed in.  I waded in next to the salmon carcass and retrieved 2 pieces, climbed back onto the bank, took off my camera and set it on the ground, and then rolled my pants up to my knees for a return trip in 18" for the cover.

Mission accomplished.  As I padded in my bare feet through Jones Park, I reflected that if there was any doubt that I'm a Renton resident, then there isn't any now. I am now one again with the Cedar River.  Want some river cred?  Get to know the river inside out.

I am surprised to say how refreshing my little dip felt even in the cold of late October and even though it took nearly an hour for my hands to thaw from bright red to peach.  Once my feet dried I put on my sandals sans socks and somehow managed to fire several frames on the way back to the car.  Silly as it sounds, my salmon-trek-turned-retrieval-mission reminded me that I feel at home walking bare foot and smelling like river water.  I remembered my history, and as with many such nostalgic moments in life, it pays happy dividends to savor them.

Meanwhile my phone dripped in my pocket until I dried the surface with a tissue, lodged the three pieces onto the dashboard vents, and turned the defrost up to level 3.  Smelling like the river I drove home with the sun setting in my rear view mirror.  My phone now dries in a bag of rice. 

Status Update [10/26 ~8:22 pm PDT]:  Hooray! Android works after yesterday's dunk in the river! Thanks everyone who helped out. We've now some river cred.

Comment Reply [10/26 ~9:13 pm PDT]: Blew out the rice dust, tried the battery, but no go, then husband plugged it in, and told me to leave it alone. ;D Once the battery was full charge he turned it on N it worked. Thankful and glad I fetched it (those phones are 'spensive!). Thanks again.

So my phone has been baptized in the Cedar River. Now I am commissioned to go forth and prosper in the world.

Anyway my trek this year made for an offbeat story.  Watch this video of salmon spawning in a native habitat by the Friends of the Cedar River Watershed:

The Cedar River Trail shows yet another reason why I Love Renton and Renton is a great place to live, work, and play, but don't take my word for it.  We even celebrate an annual festival called Renton River Days.

Be free to watch the Salmon spawn this Saturday and Sunday with the Friends of Cedar River, or come down on your own time.  Learn more about the Cedar River/Lake Washington Watershed and take a virtual tour.  Visit Renton's many trails and natural areas.

The Cedar River is a truly special place to stand still in time and watch the cycle of life. 

To every Season...