There were so many Earth Day activities to attend that I had some difficulty choosing which to spend my day with. I chose to go with the Whatcom Land Trust that has preserved over 20,000 acres from Farm land to salmon spawning habitat, to watersheds, to river corridors, to old growth forests and parks and has facilitated preservation of thousands more acres.
A derelict sail boat washed up on a local beach from a winter storm a couple of years ago. It is polluting the beach and bay as it sheds particles from its fiberglass hull. Plastic decking has come off the bow and a number of other plastic items are wedged under the boat, not to mention the numerous cans of spray paint used to tag this mess.
North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment Washington, at the mouth of the Columbia River
We left off in Part 1 at Celilo Falls and The Dalles Dam, the last dam before the river meets the ocean. This remaining portion of the river’s journey is also spectacular although the landscape takes on a different character. After leaving the Canadian Rockies, the terrain along the river has been relatively barren, semi-arid plateau with the river cutting deep canyons through ancient basalt flows. The vegetation is largely shrubs and grasses with some pine where it approaches the mountains.
Leaving The Dalles, the arid brown landscape of the Columbia Plateau gives way to greens of a more marine climate as it heads toward the ocean. This change is exemplified by the lushness and pastoral beauty of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.
The Columbia River, near Wenatchee WA, about mid way between its origins in British Columbia and its mouth at the Pacific Ocean.
I grew up along this river in the Tri-City area and have had occasion to travel along much if its1,200 mile course from British Columbia to its mouth where it joins the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia River and its adjacent territory has a long and storied geologic and human history. More recently it was in large part instrumental in the settlement of the west and particularly the Pacific Northwest. The river was the last leg of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition which ultimately contributed to the opening up of the Washington and Oregon territory for settlement.
I’ll present the river in a two part series as it got kind of lengthy. This first part covers the river from its origins in Canada to The Dalles and Celilo Falls Oregon. The second part will cover its last 180 or so miles as it approaches and then meets the Pacific Ocean.
This Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) has something pink like a salmon in its talon
Along the salmon spawning creeks and rivers of the west coast, winter is spawning time for salmon and gorging time for eagles. And it is great for us as well to watch them play out their age old sustenance routines in their natural habitat.
These two snowy white birds have recently returned to our area after summering and breeding in Alaska (Trumpeter Swan) and the arctic tundra (Snowy Owl). One does not have to be an avid birder to celebrate their annual arrival as both are real showboats with their white feathers and their relatively large size. The snowy Owl is the largest by weight of the NA owls and has a 50” wingspan while the Trumpeter Swan is our largest native waterfowl, stretching up to six feet and weighing up to 26 lbs.
North Cascades Mountain Goat (Oreamnos america) grazing on huckleberries and grasses on a warm October afternoon. What a beautiful specimen, well muscled with thick lustrous white fur and appearing very well fed.
Yellow and Pink Monkey Flower, Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National forest
Wild Flowers are usually aflame in mid August around the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, and so they were to the extent to which we could reach them. After a snowy winter and a near record snow pack, the snow had not yet melted from one of my favorite mountain trails.
Although we, in Bellingham WA, were not within the total eclipse range, we were close enough to get some feel for this exciting celestial event. Being just 20 miles from the Canadian border and about 300 miles north of the band of totality we were able to experience 90% of the eclipse.
In our part of the Salish Sea, late June is the beginning of harbor seal birthing (pupping) season that runs through August. On July 2nd, I was fortunate to observe one of these births on the shore of Bellingham Bay. On an early Sunday morning walk, I saw this harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) swimming erratically in tight circles and occasionally coming up to the rocks on shore, then back to the water. I was concerned that it was ill and disoriented. I could not have been more wrong. Mamma seal knew exactly what she was doing.