Fall Creek is a tributary of the Alsea River. A well-maintained gravel road is between mile markers 26 and 27 on the Alsea Highway 34. We’ve been checking Fall Creek, every couple weeks, for salmon but hadn’t seen any at the falls until this week.
There’s a really nice research center about a half-mile further up the road. They use workampers and other volunteers seasonally.
But we just like to watch the salmon jump the falls. We only saw one jump so we walked down the river to see how many we could find on redds. “Redds” are the gravel beds where salmon lay their eggs.
But we were mostly excited to see the size of these Chinook this year. They are probably in the 30-40 lb range!
“Sore Back” is a nickname given to the adult salmon that are dying. As their bodies deteriorate, they turn white and look like sores.
They’ll tend their eggs until they die.
Salmon lesson for the day: We never stop being a parent.
I just wanted a catchy title…but it IS actually related to my topic(s)…no it’s not about my hubby 🙂
This little hairy woodpecker was calling me for his photo session this afternoon.
I know he’s not hairy, that’s his name.
The holiday weekend brought lots of fishermen to Alsea Bay. The ones who didn’t go back to school are still here today.
I don’t think a Chinook can get through this maze of fishermen!
I think what people refer to as “the jaws” is the narrow, choppy, area that transitions between the Alsea Bay and the ocean. It’s pretty tricky to navigate and is not recommended. It doesn’t look like these guys are in the dangerous part.
So let’s start at the bottom of the food chain. The above photo shows a man using a dredge to harvest ghost shrimp to be used for bait. The birds like the ghost shrimp too.
We saw the pelicans fly by; not diving today. Cormorants were diving and eating crabs but it was the Elegant Terns that caught our eye. From a distance they look like seagulls but a closer look reveals their black cap. I’ve never seen one but was given a heads-up they were in the area on the Yahoo Group: Lincoln Co. Birding and Nature Observing
Boats were crabbing for Dungeness crab in the Alsea Bay.
There were even a couple boats out in the jaws – or the mouth of the bay.
As a friend described it, it is the “soaker-hose kind of rain” that we’ve needed so badly here. Just a gentle, soak-the-ground-deeply, rain. 🙂
It raised the Alsea River only a quarter of an inch. But it was enough to bring the Chinook in! 2 salmon, in the 20 lb class, were caught from the banks of Blackberry Campground this weekend. It’s not that easy to discover the “truth” about what brings the salmon up a river when all you hear are fishermen’s (purported) truths or theories (sorry dear).
This I know: 1) Salmon come up the river to spawn; 2) Salmon return to their own hatching grounds.
But, as far as what role rain plays in the salmon spawn, I’m still listening to theories. Maybe there is truth in all these theories? I don’t think they contradict each other. Here are some I’ve heard: 1) The rain in the river carries the scent to the salmon that they recognize from their youth. 2) The rain lowers the temperature of the river and it’s the right temperature that tells the salmon that it’s okay to come up. 3) The rain raises the level of the river so the salmon can make it to their destination.
I know there are experts on the subject. But, frankly, I like listening to the theories. They are presented with such conviction!
We are getting more soaker-hose rain this afternoon. We had the extra high tide (9.0) around noon today. The minus tide (-.5) is around 6pm. So the tide really moved in fast this afternoon.
My “content advisor”, as Don likes to be called, and I made a plan for sunset last night. It had been cloudy all day around Waldport and Yachats until evening.
Our work took us up the Alsea River to give our final good-byes to the couple who did a super job managing River Edge and Canal Creek Campgrounds for us this summer.
So we head north on Hwy 101 from Tillicum Campground into Waldport.
This is the time of year when my job (because Don is driving and I don’t want to crash) is to look back over our shoulders to see how many boats are in “the Jaws” of the Alsea Bay. Don tries to look anyway.
Warning: If you are travelling south on Hwy 101 out of Waldport, OR, watch for swerving cars coming at you. Those are wishful-fishermen.
As I looked, I couldn’t help but yell, “picture!” After I peeled myself off the dashboard, I jumped out and took this pic from the seawall of the Alsea Bay, just south of Waldport. There’s a pull-out where the guy sells firewood. Don’s very responsive to my requests….or, he jumps at any chance to watching fishing…I guess that’s more likely. 🙂
Regardless, there’s salmon in them-thar-waters! See the black mouth? That’s a chinook. We saw this as we came back down river. There are lots of boats trolling in this part of the bay.
We saw a guy with a 28lb’er who landed it from the beach, in Waldport, the day before.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking I’m committing a horrible sin. It’s not like Alaska where there is more salmon than you can dream of. If this post is gone this evening you’ll know my content advisor read it and disapproved. :-}
Anyway, the ocean was SO flat all day. That’s probably why so many boats ventured out into the jaws. That can get pretty hairy (dangerous). There were also more than usual boats out in the ocean just south of Waldport. As we came back to our campsite, we could actually see clear sky in the west! We needed groceries badly so we made a plan to go to Newport, grab something for dinner, fuel up, then have dinner at an overlook for sunset photos. My choice was Seal Rock but we might not have time to get that far. It would be close but we can do it! Ready, Go!
So we knew we were running late but we still had hope when we came out of Walmart and saw the giant, orange, ball peaking through the trees. We could go down to Agate Beach for the sunset photos, then get fuel, then eat dinner at Seal Rock. We can re-plan on the spur of the moment! We do it all summer! That’s what workamping is all about!
Then it happened. A gallon of milk fell off the edge of the truck bed. That killed our plan. The lid shot off and milk went everywhere. I blotted it off me and the inside of the truck. By the time we were ready to leave none of the orange ball was visible. So we reluctantly drove down 101 to the gas station. Then I saw the orange ball again! It was such a deep orange, with a definite border! But it was too late. We didn’t know our way to the oceanfront from there. By the time we got to Nye Beach, the orange ball was gone.
It was still a pretty sunset, although the best part of it is still in my head.
Pink clouds, Yaquina Head Lighthouse in the distance, beach grass not moving in the slightest and the flattest ocean we’ve seen in who knows how long.
We ate in the truck and counted the boats as their lights popped up on the horizon.
When we’re visiting with family I’m usually enjoying that rather than blogging. Since we’re back on the road, for a couple days, I’ll show some pix from last week.
Yes, we did expect a little snow on the ground this morning.
Look how cute! It’s kind of a thick snowflake, though, isn’t it? Looks like you could string them for a necklace.
We continued west on Hwy 140, until we got to Sprague River Rd, where we cut across to Hwy 97 at Chiloquin. From there, we went north. The roads were pretty clear by the time we got on the road but there were a few trucks that had slid off the sides. Glad we didn’t get an early start this day (Oct 26th, last Tuesday). We turned west onto Hwy 58 to go over the Willamette Pass.
As you can see, the snow plows were out earlier but the roads are clear now. The trees are pretty but the snow took some of them down.
There were still some fall colors showing through the snow as we came down in elevation.
Fall Creek on the Alsea Hwy
After visiting with family and recuperating from the drive for a day, we headed to the coast. How can we pass the turn off to Fall Creek without taking a peek? We saw a couple salmon attempt the falls.
We saw quite a few chinook in Fall Creek. They were probably 30 – 40 lbs. Too big to make it up the falls, they were making their reds below.
Our next workamping position is at Tillicum Beach, just south of Waldport, OR. We stopped in to talk to the current hosts there. Then we went down to Florence to get a look at the 2 new campgrounds, Alder Dune and Sutton. On the way, though, we had to stop to see if the sea lions were out. There is an overlook, just north of Sea Lion Caves, between Heceta Head Lighthouse and Florence. You can usually hear the sea lions if they are out. There were 2 big rafts of them out in the water. Then this huge colony on the beach. These guys were very vocal. Some, that were coming up on the beach, seemed to be calling to ask where there was an open spot. The grouchy ones answered back, telling them to move along.
The sea lions coat gets lighter in color as they dry out. These have been here long enough that most of them are asleep. These were less vocal. You’d hear low groans as the young ones would climb over them to get from one place to another. I love the positions some of them get into. They just look so exhausted. I can relate!