Salmon Watch is an experiential field trip program that teaches youth about salmon and healthy watersheds. Traditional Salmon Watch learning topics are: Salmon Biology, Macroinvertebrates, Water Quality, and Riparian Areas. Similar Salmon Watch programs happen all over the Pacific Northwest and are tailored by various local organizations in partnership with schools and volunteers.
The Linn Benton Salmon Watch program is coordinated by a committee representing the Calapooia Watershed Council, South Santiam Watershed Council, Benton Soil and Water Conservation District, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Siuslaw National Forest, and two devoted retired teachers.
The Linn Benton Salmon Watch program is targeted to 5th – 6th grade students in Linn and Benton Counties. Field trips take place on the South Santiam River in September, and on the Alsea River in late October. Volunteers are needed to lead the learning stations during field trips. Free trainings are provided in August, September, and October.
Aquatic Insects, Clean Water, Healthy Riparian Zones
Teachers play a key role preparing their students for a day on the water with water quality activities, aquatic insect gathering, riparian ecology and salmon biology. Students learn to recognize good salmon habitat and the influence salmon have on the ecosystem. Moving along the banks they learn about the riparian zone and begin to identify what makes the river a fantastic place to visit and to play; they can begin to fathom water quality and how to help keep rivers and streams healthy. The rivers are often our source of water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and watering our gardens, farms and animals. What is good for the spawning salmon is good for us, too!
An Active Day With Salmon
Aquatic insects living in shallow water bring delight and excitement to students discovering them beneath rocks. What makes it possible for the bugs and crawdads to be here? What do they need to thrive? How do salmon fit into their story? Some stretches of a creek coordinate with simple stretches of water flowing through fields, some through meadows and forest openings. Other areas are deeply shaded. The dynamic matrix of life begins to emerge from splashing around in the water for a day with the salmon.
Many living organisms support and depend on the interplay with salmon from the shoreline on out to the horizon. From where the forests straddle a distant ridge top to the water’s edge and down into the deepest parts of a stream channel, we want clean water that is cool and fresh. Whether it is gently flowing through a still pool and shadowy glide or wildly piling up around boulders, big logs and old tree stumps, we support healthy rivers and streams when students learn more about influences of a river or stream alive with the thrill of flowing water.
The riparian zone is a patchwork of shrubs and trees, smaller plants and mossy rocks. It is a fascinating complex of water and the physical habitat that sustains plants, animals and every living thing. Branches hang overhead with lichen while birds fly around and find food, shelter, and a place to sing. Limbs are covered with moss, and mammals weave a story with their foot prints. Snakes and amphibians always make surprise appearances. We want to make sure there is enough shade and cover to keep water cool and provide food and protection for fish. We want to make sure kids know more about salmon and what they need so we can live together.
Nothing Stays the Same
Wild winter flows change everything–nothing stays the same. High energy flows result in clean new stretches of river. Logs and branches hang up after falling from the treetops and sail down stream. Cobbles and sandy gravel pile up high in front of a new log jam or below a new bend in the river. A calm spell after a stormy year can last a few months or several years. Greater channel complexity gives rise to new growth in the riparian zone. Plants and trees take root and water slows down enough as it passes through young willows that even more sand and rock are deposited. When the river moves through this matrix of rocks, logs, living trees and shrubs it scours out pools that fish and crawdads love to call home for awhile. It all moves downstream, but what could be better than a day on the river watching the salmon spawn?