Spawning Chinook Salmon Return to McKenzie River After Fires

A male spring Chinook salmon makes its way toward spawning area on the McKenzie River. Lingering smoke and blackened trees from the Holiday Farm Fire are visible on the far bank. - Holiday Farm Fire Facebook

The species of salmon native to the Pacific Coast are no strangers to fire. For millennia they have been making their annual spawning runs upstream, regardless of what is happening on the river banks. Recently, they have become a sign of hope along the McKenzie River in Oregon where the Holiday Farm Fire devastated the region.

From the Holiday Farm Fire Facebook Page:

“The McKenzie River is the flowing heart of the McKenzie River Corridor. Its crystalline waters are home to important populations of salmon, steelhead, and bull trout making it a regional fly fishing destination. The McKenzie River fishery is integral to the local economy.

When the Holiday Farm Fire roared through the river corridor many wondered how the damage would impact the river. Would the river turn into a muddy mess? Would the fish come back?

Joe Moll, Executive Director and Daniel Dietz, Conservation Director for the McKenzie River Trust, visited parts of the river to see how the Holiday Farm Fire impacted salmon spawning habitat. The pair were pleased to note that the river was running clear and cold despite the surrounding damage done by the fire. Several spring Chinook salmon swam upstream to spawn, completing the life cycle of the iconic species.

‘Seeing Chinook salmon spawning again in an area where the fire had just run through was a very powerful sign of hope,’ said Joe Moll, executive director of the McKenzie River Trust.

The Trust is one of several organizations that have been working together to improve salmon habitat in the river corridor. Moll says that incorporating the river’s recovery from the fire will be important to future conversations about salmon habitat.

‘We’re going to have to step back and see how the river and forest respond and incorporate that information into how the community responds to the fire,’ said Moll.”

Check out our previous coverage of the Chinook’s comeback on the McKenzie:

After 42 Years, Chinook Salmon Return to the Mckenzie River

After 65 Years Chinook Salmon Return to California’s San Joaquin River

The Bad Apple – Tube Fly for Chinook & Steelhead

Landing My First Oregon Chinook Salmon

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