A frosty Morn on the Nooksack, just how the salmon like it.
In parts 1 and 2, of this series I described the Nooksack River and how it’s three forks joined from the glaciers and water sheds surrounding the Mount Baker National Forest and wilderness area. The river that used to be prime spawning waters teemed with salmon that fed the local Indians for thousands of years. About 150 years ago, these waters were dramatically changed with the arrival of settlers from the east who logged the hillsides and plowed the prairie lands. These typical settler activities deprived the waters of the cooling effects of the shoreline trees and degraded the water quality with flooding silt. The natural processes that sustained the waters historically became seriously disturbed. The waters and the fish suffered as a result in proportion to their proximity to the settlements. The upper reaches are less polluted that those closer to the farming and populations centers.
Spawning Salmon in tributary creek to the Nooksack
In Part 1 of this series I described the Nooksack River from its headwaters in the North Cascade Mountains through its course to the Salish Sea. I made the case that this river, along with others like it, were critically important to sustaining our icons of the Salish Sea – salmon and orcas. Sustaining these icons is dependent in part on the health of these rivers that grow the fish which in turn feed our resident orca. That is, healthy rivers are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for saving these critters. In this part I relate the history of the river, what has happened to it and why it is important today that it is restored to health and maintained.
North Fork of Nooksack River at Horseshoe Bend – Mount Baker National Forest
I’ve written of conservation efforts to preserve our local PNW waters and the salmonids that spawn and live in these streams. In these posts I have periodically mentioned the Nooksack but I have not featured this marvelous River as it deserves.
The Nooksack River is neither a large nor a long river by most standards as it runs only 75 miles from its origin in the glaciers of the North Cascade Mountains to its delta and mouth where it empties into Bellingham Bay to become part of the Salish Sea.
However, its relatively small size does not diminish its importance to the Pacific Northwest and its marine environment. The Nooksack is one of the few streams in the PNW that supports all five native pacific salmon species as well other salmonids such as steelhead and the rare Bull trout.
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.
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.