Sep 19, 2012

Salmon on the Salmon

A weekend wedding of a great thru-hiker friend took us to Welches, Oregon. Scott and his crew are a big contingent of the folks that like to paddle their boats underwater. As squirt boaters, they have a fascinating way of experiencing the river. Yet another reminder of how multifaceted the boating community is. While interested in packrafts, the squirt boaters would have a hard time doing mystery moves in my Llama!

The wedding provided a chance to catch up with some of some good friends I haven't seen in awhile; after the wedding, bike parade, and celebrating, we headed for the Salmon River.

With headwaters draining from the Palmer Glacier on Mt. Hood's south side, our cfs were pretty low - Fall is right around the corner. We drove to the upper bridge and packed up our boats for a hike upstream.

I use a Fanatic Fringe pack, perfect for day packing and with no frame, the 11oz bag just stuffs into a dry bag.
Kirk just strapped the boat to his back for the hike in...

Ooo, the water looked low, but my eye spied spots where we might be able to sneak through, well worth trying it out!

We only made it a little over a mile due to the cliffs that start upstream of where we put is apparently a dazzling gorge with waterfalls...something Kirk has run at higher water, and not somewhere I am likely to ever find myself!

As we were blowing up our boats, Kirk was the first one to notice the salmon. Fins were circling in a deep pool on the far side of the river and soon we noticed about 10 - 15 were splashing and swimming about. SWEET. I had never seen salmon heading to their spawning grounds before and was thrilled to see the massive fish so far upstream.

If I could take a clear picture, you would see big fish.
With the 80 foot waterfall not far upstream, we must have been close to the birthplace of all these big beauties. We put on the water and from there had a slow progression of dodging rocks and getting stuck. Ok, so maybe there wasn't enough water afterall... I portaged a good bit, Kirk made it through a few times by choosing the right channel, but overall we could have used a little more water.

Regardless, the area is beautiful and the fish continued to swim past us and at one point I had to scream as two salmon surprised me by splashing out of the water a few inches from my paddle. Did I say AWESOME?!?!

We got out of the river at the bridge despite the fact that we stashed a bike a few miles downriver. Our progress was slow and thought we'd save the bottom of our boats and leave the salmon to their journey.

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