Friday, December 4, 2009

Carkeek Park Outing

During the fall months, many salmon return to local streams to spawn. In the old days, before European settlers citified this area, salmon used to be so thick in the streams, a person could walk across on their backs. Now, well, streams in the city are lucky if any salmon find their way up them at all. At Carkeek Park, in Seattle, school children participate in raising salmon eggs every year, and releasing them into Piper's Creek. Four to five years later, the salmon come back from their ocean journeys and miraculously smell their way back to the same creek they came from. They mate, lay eggs, and die, their carcasses littering the streams and providing precious nutrients to the ecosystem.

I wanted to get out of the house, and even though I still need to use a big walking boot to walk outside, I can drive with a regular shoe. The paths at Carkeek are level along the stream, and there is a little interpretive center to visit. We looked at some taxidermy specimens, and some bones they had on display, and compared the differences between some of the birds.

Annika and Gabriel check out a barred owl specimen.

A former colleague of mine, Brian, came downstairs to say hi to us, and showed us the tubes with salmon eggs at different stages of gestation. He even let us eat our lunch inside.

Brian shows the kids the different stages of salmon egg development.

The temps were in the upper 30s or low 40s, and it was dry when we began our little field trip, but it started raining when we got ready to go down to look at the stream. I had planned to walk along the length of Piper's Creek, looking for spawning salmon, and then take the kids up to the playground to play. But the rain started falling harder and harder, a drenching, cold rain that soaks through. The kids were not very interested in seeing fish, but we did spot two carcasses in the short section we observed. Apparently the cohort that was released four years ago was infected with a gill rot disease they had brought with them from the hatchery, and most didn't survive, so there was a very low return this year. Learning this information, I felt lucky that we had seen any at all.

The kids look over Piper's Creek.

Gabriel was interested in the solar panels at the learning center. On sunny days, they provide the power for the offices.

Despite the rain and the lack of spawning fish, I still think this was a successful outing. I know my kids are missing the forests, and they commented on how peaceful it was there. I hope we will be able to get out more soon, and that I can find some more wooded trails that I can go on until my ankle heals a bit more. (Sorry my pics are a little dark, it was a gloomy day today.)