January 20, 2002


The Hoh River and the Hoh Rainforest of the Olympic National Park are places where one can become a part of the landscape; immersed in it, during this time of the year. There is a visitor's center where you can go inside and look at maps and displays of the area, but other than warming yourself up by the woodstove, these things won't do much to bring you to this place.

I have a favorite fishing spot up in the valley. It's where the North and South Forks of the Hoh River meet. The river water is clear aqua green and blue. The Coho Salmon are at the peak of their spawning cycle and the first winter steelhead are arriving. Eagles are feasting on the carcasses of the salmon who have already spawned and died. The water is mostly flat except at the confluence of the two streams. I was rigging up my outfit when I heard rather loud voices and looked up to see that a drift boat with two fishermen had slid thru the upper riffle of the pool and the guy who was rowing was talking with another fisherman on the opposite bank. I thought I was alone. My thoughts became entangled in a confusing dialog. Finally, I walked away.

Something in the woods caught my eye as I went to gather my stuff and go upriver. I was drawn to a spot in the trees. Nothing. The dominant mindset of most fishermen is far out of the mainstream. Collected my daypack; then saw a deer 25 feet away. We exchanged glances. She was what I sensed. I waited for her to run; instead the doe went back to browsing and I walked to my car and drove to a spot further up river.

Wading is a skill all its own. Working with the current and gauging your progress and the depth of the water as you make it for the opposite bank includes allowing for things to go wrong. Nothing did and once across I made it to my new spot. I hooked a fairly large fish and played it and released it. It was a Coho Salmon and I thought that I was in their spawning territory. Working my way down river I hooked and released another spawning salmon. This is not where I want to be either. These fish should be left alone to finish their spawning.

Down river it's a different story. After a warm front raised the freezing level to 9000 feet for two days we saw a huge, scouring flush of water that was increased by 4 inches of rain. It virtually tore the banks apart. There's not any wood in the form of large spruce and fir left in the river down here to mitigate the damage. The last of the big logjams has been washed away. So the river has changed rapidly and frightened many of the residents who live on or near the flood plain. Clear cut logging has taken it's toll down here and the river keeps moving closer and closer to where people live. The Hoh River came up 13 feet this time. It's been over a week and you might be able to see 4 inches into the water. It's very muddy. Caring for ecosystems often means doing nothing. It's gotten to the point here that some people have actually purchased trees and had them thrown in the river, root wad and all; to create instant log jams to protect the banks, slow down the river and create habitat for young fish making their way to the ocean! We should try to understand the dynamics of the Hoh. It's really counter productive to see much of the aqua and forest habitat just washed away because no one cared about things in the long term. There's something comforting in knowing that the places in which we live reflect vitality and foster life. They are our role models.

Take it with ease, Jim


no defined river channel
river channeled by trees
There's nothing here to protect the riverbank Here fallen trees protect the riverbank with some in reserve for the next high water.

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December 27, 2000
January 15, 2001
February 13, 2001
March 25, 2001
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