May at Big Creek

This is a view from the meadow in back of our trailer. Trees in the foreground are plum. We can hear Big Creek babbling from the meadow, and from our trailer if we listen close.

A heard of elk meander around the hatchery grounds and we’re able to capture a view now and then. Majestic.

We venture in to Astoria, as well as nearby Warrenton, about once a week to shop and check in at a brewery. Astoria was used to film several movies, the most noted is the 1985 movie “The Goonies.” We stopped at Astoria Coffee Roasters, located a block away from the Goonies house, and also the Kindergarten Cop school building. Because of all the unwanted traffic created by Goonie fanatics, you can’t get close to the house, but Kindergarten Cop school is an easy drive by. It continues as a school today, known as the John Jacob Astor school… Or “Astoria Elementary”

We enjoyed a short drive on US 101 across the Columbia to Ilwaco, Washington and their Saturday market along the docks. Mostly crafty items this time of year, but it will expand as local farmers can harvest their produce. At any rate it was a fun day to explore.

We met Lauren and Caleb at the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook on Saturday over Memorial Day weekend. They are young couple that serve as traveling nurses around the country, generally working 12 hour days of night shifts. We met them while we were all staying at Twin Palms RV Park in Mesa. They needed a break from their long night shifts, so we suggested they try volunteering at Alsea Fish Hatchery near Corvallis. We had volunteered there in 2015. They did, so that enabled us to meet them at Tillamook and catch up. Sad that the factory was closed for remodeling, but we were able to visit their temporary visitor building for cheese tasting and their delicious ice cream. Later, we stopped by De Garde Brewery for a taste, and the Pelican Brewery for a burger and an Umbrella (their IPA).

Meanwhile back at the hatchery, we had a fun time gathering with the tech families for a little BBQ. The added social life makes our stay here extra special.

Life at the hatchery this time of year is somewhat slow as far as the hatchery operation. Mostly maintenance. But we got to participate in gathering up some Spring Salmon that couldn’t quite find their way back home. These Chinook (King) average around 12 pounds. Here is a 26 second video of the operation.

“Springers” aren’t hatched or released at Big Creek, so they shouldn’t be coming up the creek to spawn from the ocean, but some occasionally stray up the stream each year. They “become lost” in part because of net pens in the sloughs.

After gathering the “lost springers,” we took them down close to the mouth of Big Creek and released. We helped punch a hole it their tale for identification, but so far no one has reported catching one.

TULE SALMON RELEASE

Tule Chinook (King) salmon spawn and hatch at Big Creek Hatchery. Columbia River Indians called them mitúla, or “white salmon,” because the flesh of the salmon is light colored when they return to spawn. When ready, the young salmon (2-3 inches) are released into Big Creek to begin their journey to the pacific, where they live 3-4 years before returning to spawn. To help get them ready, techs will poor on the feed, looking for about 70 fish per pound before releasing. View the 8 second video below to see the feeding process.

When ready, the pond gates are opened and the young Tules are coaxed out through a large pipe over to a larger pipe that runs under the spawning building.

Look closely and you can see a couple young Tules as they come out of the channel under the spawning building. These guys are only a couple inches long.

Then they follow the channel into Big Creek, and eventually the Columbia River and the Pacific. Big Creek released around 2 1/2 million, and less than 1% will make it back to spawn.

 

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Comments

May at Big Creek — 3 Comments

  1. So beautiful, green and lush in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks for sharing what you and Connie have been up to, loved the pictures of the hatchery.

  2. Hey Ed and Connie! It’s Carrie the purchaser of the airstream 🙂 I just thought I’d say hello and let you know that I am full time in the Airstream in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island! Me and Eva (my little dog) are loving it! I hope everything is going well for you both, you should come over to the island some day would love to share a coffee!!

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