Over the past four weeks, we have taken part in and witnessed so many incredible restoration projects. Our time in the Grand Ronde area proved to continue that same pattern. The Odyssey crew spent most of the last week with Levi Old, Trout Unlimited’s Northeast Oregon Project Manager and his project on Sheep Creek – a tributary to the Grand Ronde.
As Levi explained, Sheep Creek is a meadow water system that provides essential habitat both for the spawning of anadromous fish (salmonids, steelhead, lamprey) as well as excellent conditions for the maturation of juvenile fish. In an attempt to create even better habitat, Levi’s project stretches miles long through the valley and has also included contractors from Montana and over 50 people are a part of the effort.
The Odyssey crew enjoyed watching the skill of the excavator operators in placing massive logs in precisely marked areas. However, what we took to even better was getting our own hands dirty and participating in some restoration work with the hand crew. From felling trees to dragging lofty trunks with grip hoists, it felt really special to be a part of something – to put some sweat into the project.
Levi’s passion for the project was extremely clear. At this point, he had spent almost two years planning and assembling his team. Equally as passionate, was Ian Wilson, Fish Habitat Specialist for the Confederated of the Umatilla. The Odyssey crew was fortunate enough to jump in and join a fish salvage effort on the main stem of the Grand Ronde with Ian where we worked to capture and relocate salmon, O. mykiss and lamprey ammocoetes. After working with him, Ian was kind enough to invite us to camp and fish on his property on the Wallowa River.
This opportunity to fish on Ian’s property possibly presented some of the best fishing of the trip. Sure, you could measure a “best fishing day” by the metric of size, quantity, etc. but this was one of our favorite times fishing because of the experience as a whole. We were a bunch of fishing fanatics telling stories, shouting oooooh‘s and ahh‘s every time someone hooked or lost a fish.
Without getting too corny or nostalgic, I think I can speak for us all when I say that this was a truly life-changing experience. Not many college-age students have the opportunity to tour an entire area of the US for a month, let alone meet the honest and inspirational souls we did. We learned that there are still countless problems on the Columbia River, some that seem insurmountable. However, we also discovered the importance of actually sharing the stories of the men and women who dedicate their whole lives to save what native and wild areas we have left. And, hopefully, bring them back.
Thank you all for following along, for your support and encouragement. We will continue to share content and stories from our trip so follow @tucosta5rivers for more.
Article and pictures by FlyLords Media Intern Matteo Moretti.