July 18, 2010

The Palouse; a True Visual Treasure

There is a good deal of ground to cover in Eastern WA. Some images of the dual purpose journey I made there in May are in earlier posts. With hundreds of photos taken on the trip, the process of sorting them out has been, ah... interesting. There are quite a few more in this post so BEWARE, it may be overkill.

The afternoon I made the trip over the Cascade Mountain Range to Yakima, weather changed with the levels of elevation as expected. With the high temp reports for the East side, I didn't expect it to be cloudy there. By the time I got to the rest stop and gorge, just outside of town, (see the bridge in earlier post) the sky was looking dramatic and making for some fun light. Thirty minutes later, after checking into my room, this sunset with thinning clouds greeted me. It was a fun way to begin the trip.

My reason for being in Yakima was a two day Up Stream Fish Passage workshop. The first day we met in the local museum for an all day lecture. Day two we were in the field visiting a variety of examples of successful, and less than successful projects. I've included some photos from our first site visit at the Roza Diversion Dam on the Yakima River. 

Roza is one of seven diversion systems in the US Bureau of Reclamation's Yakima Project. The earliest project in the Plan was started in 1906. Roza began in 1939. Consideration for fish and wildlife, along with the redesign necessary to accommodate them, occurred in the 80's with completion in 89'. The seven diversions are primarily for irrigation purposes with some providing power generation as well.  

The photo below is looking down stream below the dam. Main stem to the left, diversion channel to the right.

The next photo (two below) looks down on the fish ladder. If you refer again to the first dam photo, the fish ladder entrance (dark opening) can be seen to the far right. Typically the greater number of fish move upstream along the river sides. Less pressure on them and places to rest. The next photo (one below) includes a debris barrier to stop the flow of natural and man made "treasures" that find their way into the river. Much more elaborate filter systems are placed before the entrance to the diversion channel.

Behind the dam and fish ladder is a building designed for fish monitoring. At the upper portion of the fish ladder is a fish catchment area where many (not all) are diverted. After being raised in a tank, they are sent, one by one, down a chute and into an area where they are track chipped, weighed, DNA sampled and more in the blink of an eye. Most are returned to the river. Some are transported to the hatchery for breeding. 

The folks working the monitoring system are amazing. Their schedules flow with the fish. The day before we visited, they processed 350 plus fish in 12 hours. It is a physically exhausting job requiring a high degree exactness and speed. The combination of the fish ladder and the monitoring support have increased fish numbers from almost non-existent to significant.

I'll stop the fish chatter here. Just thought you might like to see a bit of what's going on in the area of re-engineering structures of older design to meet today's needs.

Following the workshop's conclusion, I headed East again, making my way to the Palouse farm lands. My destination was the small town of Colfax. It ended up being a great home base from which to roam the countryside and return when needed. Having never been there before, I had no idea how long the drive would actually take. My goal was to be in the area before sunset to catch that wonderful light. 

As I raced by sites like the first photo below, I was going nuts trying to decide if I should stop and make some images or keep going; continually asking myself "what if". What if...the scene around the next bend is more amazing than what I'm seeing in the moment. Ultimately, the next two days would reflect the same conundrum. Do I stop? Where can I stop? And more often than not; how am I going to take photos through the windows, while sitting still, moving, window open, window closed, etc. The reality is, there was almost zero traffic the whole time I was there. And I swear I didn't do anything dangerous. What I did do, I'm sorry to admit, was go through a LOT of window cleaner. The Napa guy in Colfax, who very kindly filled the cleaner container for me, was stunned when it took a full gallon. He was sure I couldn't have gone through that much in the three previous days. 

As I've gushed in previous posts, the Palouse in the spring is just lovely to see. Yellow crops cover so much of the area in summer, it must be breath taking. One of my main goals in visiting the Colfax area was to be on Steptoe Butte for sunrise or sunset. My better judgement prevailed when I saw it from a long distance. (photo above) One way or the other I was going to be going up or down a narrow, primitive and unfamiliar road in darkness. I talked with a few locals who suggested it would be better not to make the trip alone. Next time.

It was the perfect pause before saying good bye to the Palouse and heading home. The drive took me back through a variety of dry to heavy rain areas. All beautiful. There is definitely another Palouse journey in my future. Just have to time it so my husband can come too. I hope this finds you enjoying something new in your region as well! If you're in the area, do visit the Palouse. It is a true visual treasure.


Teresa Evangeline said...

Your photos are a visual treasure! My lord, you have a good eye. One great photo after another, can't possibly pick out a favorite. this is the kind of photography that grabs my soul and won't let go. Thank you for sharing your trip. I really appreciate knowing more about the work being done to reestablish fish populations. Those photos have a beauty all their own. Very nice.

Sea Mist and Sunsets said...

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and support. I believe I said it earlier, but it bears repeating, you were with me on the Palouse journey. Especially the mapping portion, which is another post. Can't believe it but...I went to the GPS dark side.
In my efforts to "catch up" with the last few missing months, I spent the morning visiting your blog. Your lovely writing always takes me to a place of healing and respect for life's journey. So glad your journey has taken you to the river bank and a place to tend.

Basket gal said...

Wonderful photos and I learned something, too! I have been fortunate to have seen this area a handful of times, but not for many years. Thanks for sharing your trip and reminding me of the beauty of the Palouse!

Sea Mist and Sunsets said...

Thanks so much. It is a place that would take a good deal of time to fully explore. But...I would settle for another couple of days in the fall! The quiet back roads were my favorite drives. There's something good about being out where the few drivers that encounter each other on the road, wave a friendly hello as they pass.

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