While all of us were enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving feast this weekend, the Eagle Creek riparian ecosystem was also enjoying a feast of nutrients, thanks to the 30 7th and 8th graders from Portland Lutheran School who came out to the Mt. Hood National Forest on a pre-holiday salmon toss.
Scientists have discovered that a hefty percentage of the nutrients in riparian zones in western Oregon is marine based and brought there by salmon who swim up the streams to spawn and die. Despite the fact that the area around Eagle Creek is still fairly pristine, salmon runs in these streams aren’t nearly as high as they historically were. This is mostly because of overfishing and habitat degradation, dams, and pollution in areas downstream. SOLV Green Teams are trying to improve those downstream urbanized degraded habitats the rest of the year. However, this time of year we like to help out these riparian zones in the upper streams by tossing hatchery salmon carcasses into the streams to mimic what was going on historically, and cycle nutrients back into this system.
We met biologist Jeff from the Oregon department of Fish and Wildlife, and Russ Plaeger from the Sandy River Basin Council up near Zigzag, at beautiful Eagle Creek last Wednesday for the toss. When we arrived at the snowy location, the excited Portland Lutheran students jumped out of their cars and were so excited to start tossing fish, they started practicing by tossing a few snowballs around. Once warmed up, we opened the large tote full of fish, and students immediately got to work tossing the large smelly, awkward, slippery, heavy fish carcasses into the creek. While all of this was going on, another group of students used the opportunity of having these fascinating specimens to do a dissection, lead by Gina (SOLV). Students got to see the fascinating inner-workings of the fish and see how different (and similar) they are to our own piping and plumbing.
After we had tossed 3 giant totes of fish into the stream, everyone headed back downhill back to campus for lunch. But the day’s salmon adventures weren’t over yet. After lunch students had the opportunity to try out Japanese fish printing, or Gyotaku, with some of the salmon we had saved for that purpose. All the 7th and 8th graders were enjoying the beautiful art they were creating, while all the rest of the Portland Lutheran students in the building were enjoying the very distinct and ever strengthening perfume the salmon carcasses were gassing off. Students also spent some time reflecting on their day with the Salmon by both writing and drawing some pieces that may end up in Honoring our Rivers next year!
SOLV appreciates all of the enthusiasm and humor that Portland Lutheran showed on Wednesday despite the weather and strong odors, you guys definitely earned your Thanksgiving turkeys! Eagle Creek thanks you for its thanksgiving fest as well!
Did we ofishially manage to get through this entire post without any salmon related puns? I know, I minnnow, but we found they were wearing quite fin and the sheer SCALE of that endeavor is pretty roeful. Wait, what? Who put those in there?!? Just when I thought everything was going swimmingly…