Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The River, The River

Another of Tom Roorda's terrific aerial photos of the mouth of the Elwha River appeared in a most informative article by Chris Dunagan from the Kitsap Sun on March 2nd. I went out Place Road and walked the dyke there on March 7th, after work at the college, for a late-afternoon low-ish tide. I wanted to see whether, if you walked as far east as you could get on the new sandspit, a different angle up the valley could give you Mt. Olympus framed by the river mouth. But it was cloudy to the south. No mountains. I walked out anyway.

March 7, 2013. Sand spit where the Elwha River meets the Strait. (Click for larger image.)

There was not a coincidence of sunny-over-the-Olympic-Mountains plus low-tide-at-an-accessible-hour until the 18th. I was working in the tribal library. The sun was out, and the wind blowing hard. People blown into the library either talked about the sunshine, or complained about the wind. I kept my eye on the clock and went, in good time. And all was changed. The river is just now flowing straight out, and turned the eastern end of the sandy flats into an island accessible only to the gulls; with side channels beyond, on the reservation side of the river.

March 18, 2013. Mount Angeles in the near reaches of the Olympic Mountains (Click for larger image.)
The river flows straight out. March 18, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
Gulls standing around where I had hoped to be. (Click for larger image.)
The east side of the river, the tribe's shore. March 18, 2013. River flowing directly past in the foreground. (Click for larger image.)
Same March 7 image as above, marked with pink brackets <> to show where the west edge of the river reached the Strait on March 18. (Click for larger image.)
Quick shaky panorama. Vancouver Island to the north on the other side of the Strait, Olympic Mountains to the south (but Mt. Olympus would be way to the right, behind the bluff and the trees)

Anne Shaffer of the Coastal Watershed Institute tells me that they had been out sampling the new and old side channels in the newly formed habitat that same sunny windy morning, and found chum salmon, coho salmon and smelt. By the time I arrived the scientists had left, and there were three schoolbuses of kids from Crescent taking their own samples from further inland along the riverbank on the west side.

So many people are watching so passionately as the river is restored. Even when there is no work ongoing on the dam removal (it's in a pause), the river is changing and changing and changing.

PS. I learned from JR that there is a cemetery belonging to the tribe to the west along the shore at the end of Place Road. How have I worked at the tribe for five years and not known about it? When I left the river, I ventured west towards the end of Place Road to see where it was. There were people in the cemetery tending to a grave, so I didn't stop to look. Wouldn't have taken pictures anyway; it's not mine to show.

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