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Old 08-19-2014, 03:24 PM   #1
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Stuff in the water.

Participants in this forum have heard those of us from the PNW talking about the debris in the water from Puget Sound north through BC and into SE Alaska. The debris ranges from logs, branches, and chunks of wood, to huge kelp and eelgrass mats, to man-made things like old pallets, boards, and crab trap floats and lines.

A major source of the logs, branches, and stumps we frequently encounter are the rivers that flow through the coast mountains to salt water. While they are too numerous to list here, in BC there are three really big ones: the Fraser, the Skeena, and the Stikine.

Over the three-day Memorial Day weekend this year, my wife and I took a road trip to a lake in the BC interior that we had not visited for some twenty years. The first part of the trip was up the Fraser and Thompson River canyons. On the way back I took my wife on the aerial tramway that goes from Canada's Highway 1 down to Hell's Gate on the Fraser.

The average flow volume of the Fraser at its mouth is over 122,000 cubic feet per second. At Hell's Gate (named by explorer Simon Fraser who had to negotiate the cliffs on jury-rigged scaffolding), the entire river channels through a narrow rock cut only 110 feet wide.

Five runs of salmon used to pass through Hell's Gate and on to their spawning grounds in the interior, but the construction of the railways on either side of the river canyon in the early 1900s caused rock slides that narrowed the gap even more.

The increased speed of the water was now too much for the salmon. Most of them battered themselves to death on the rocks as they tried to fight their way upriver, and the number of salmon reaching the interior plummeted to near extinction.

In the 1940s, a huge joint effort by the US and Canada saw the construction of massive fish ladders on either side of Hell's Gate. The salmon began to return to the interior spawning grounds and the recovery continues to this day.

I took these photos to give a bit of an idea of what the Fraser carries into the waters many of us up here boat in. The logs, branches, poles, and even entire trees complete with massive root balls flowed through Hell's Gate in an endless and constant procession. This same thing is occuring on the Skeena and the Stikine (a river I have flown numerous times), to say nothing of the lesser rivers and steams that enter salt water from the mountains.

The first photo of the river was taken on the backside of the Coast Range, where the environment is much drier than on the west, or raincoast side of the mountains. Even at its "normal" width, you can see that this a fiercely flowing river. The other photos were taken at Hell's Gate, in the Coast Range closer to the coast. The open-sided concrete structure in the trees above the high-water fish ladder in the second photo is a snow and rock shed over the mainline of the Canadian National railroad. The Canadian Pacific railroad is on the other side of the river.

Something we learned in the fish ladder museum there: a female salmon lays up to 7,500 eggs. From these 7,500 eggs, an average of nine salmon will survive to return to spawn.
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Old 08-19-2014, 04:28 PM   #2
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Looks like the logs and crap in the lower Columbia in the spring runoff. Great post thanks for sharing.
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Old 08-19-2014, 04:30 PM   #3
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No dead bodies, that's good.

There's tons of junk out there, from runoff, flooding, to hurricanes, to boats that toss trash, to the boats themselves, abandoned, wrecked, etc. The ocean has been, is and probably will continue to be a dumping ground, directly or indirectly.
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Old 08-19-2014, 05:02 PM   #4
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Marin

Hells Gate makes for an interesting boat ride.

29' S.C. HCM Jet Boat in Hells Gate Rapid on the Frazer - YouTube
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Old 08-19-2014, 09:29 PM   #5
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I should have mentioned that the concrete fish ladder in the second photo is just the tip of the iceberg. A total of five huge ladders were constructed. The one in the photo is the "high water" ladder and is actually the smallest one. The ones that were underwater when I took the photos are massive.

I don't recall the exact figures, but the baffling inside the ladders reduces the speed of the water to a very slow rate, and the configuration of the baffles is such that the salmon have a place to rest before taking on the river upstream of Hell's Gate.

The little museum at the bottom of the tramway is worth visiting because it gives you and idea of the huge effort it took to construct the ladders. Construction went on year-round, often under appalling conditions that the weather and the river threw at the workers.

But the results were well worth the effort. Those of us who fish for salmon in the so-called "Salish Sea," and particullary in our favorite waters farther north in the Queen Charlotte Strait/Blackfish Sound area, are benefiting greatly from these ladders.
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Old 08-19-2014, 10:33 PM   #6
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Perhaps you have seen the new proposed alternative to fish ladders?

‘Salmon Cannon’ Allows Safe Migration Around Hydroelectric Dams | IFLScience
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Old 08-19-2014, 10:41 PM   #7
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I visited British Columbia as a teenager and Hell's Gate and the tramway was one of my more cherished memories. Royal Hudson train ride to I believe the city of Hope was another favorite but understand the train is no more. Thanks for the photo essay Marin, it serves to remind me there are places in need of a return visit.
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:06 PM   #8
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Thank heavens for dry land sorting of logs in the most recent decades. Else Ed McKitka (who lost his boat to a Fraser deadhead) would haunt us forever...
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:52 PM   #9
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Royal Hudson train ride to I believe the city of Hope was another favorite but understand the train is no more..
The Royal Hudson run was from West Vancouver to the town of Squamish at the top of Howe Sound, which is to the west of Vancouver. Hope is at the mouth of the Fraser River Canyon, quite a ways east of Vancouver.

It was a very cool train. My wife and I rode it some years back, and then later took the RDC (Rail Diesel Car) passenger train from the same station in West Vancouver clear up to Prince George. This was a scheduled train on the same line but it continued on from Squamish through Whistler and then down out of the mountains to the town of Lillooet on the Fraser (near where my first photo was taken) and then north across the Cariboo Plateau to Prince George.

I don't know if this passenger train is still running. This was in the days of BC Rail, to whom that West Vancouver-Prince George line belonged to. I don't believe BC Rail exists anymore, either.

There are excursion trains that use this run today. During our drive down the Fraser we saw a Rocky Mountain Express train ascending the grade from Lillooet to the plateu.
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Old 08-22-2014, 12:12 AM   #10
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Thanks for the clarification Marin, it was quite a few years ago. About a month or so after Mt St Helens volcano eruption. I remember watching the river from the train and thinking how beautiful it was. I seem to recall a couple of the cars where more modern but the car we where aboard was one of the older ones. It, along with the steam engine sound pulling a grade, made me fall in love with trains.
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Old 08-22-2014, 12:19 AM   #11
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There is not nearly as much lumber in the waters of the PNW as there was 30-40 years ago. I'd guess there is about 1-5% of the amount of logs present as there were back then.
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Old 08-22-2014, 01:54 AM   #12
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There is not nearly as much lumber in the waters of the PNW as there was 30-40 years ago. I'd guess there is about 1-5% of the amount of logs present as there were back then.
My observation as well; even 10 years ago there was a lot more wood of every description in the water. Today most of the flotsam and jetsam I see is kelp.
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Old 08-22-2014, 05:21 PM   #13
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My observation as well; even 10 years ago there was a lot more wood of every description in the water. Today most of the flotsam and jetsam I see is kelp.

Depends on location. Probably be about ten years ago they stopped storing logs in salt water. The salt water from storage created off gassing through the production of paper products . Pollution . If my memory is correct one of the biggies was chlorine , but not sure.

Any way the Fraser River is used for fresh water storage and the increase over the last few years after the soft wood timber dispute with the US is nuts. Just continued to increase. The logs the dead heads that just float by continues to increase and not just the amount but size of the material.

Be real care full on and or just off the Fraser as an example. Removal of the product from around the docks here is now a 24 - 7 , 365 days a year deal. Log strikes are all to common here, and speed takes the hit to a new level, compared to taking your time and keeping a good look out.
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