Summer Salmon Swim Again
August 11, 2021
August 11, 2021
Waikiki Springs Nature Preserve and Wildlife Area becomes home to 51 adult Chinook Salmon, thanks to Spokane Tribal Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and YOU, our generous Conservancy community!
On Friday, August 6, Spokane Tribal Fisheries released 51 adult Chinook salmon into the Little Spokane River at the Waikiki Springs Nature Preserve and Wildlife Area. This return of native Chinook to the Little Spokane is the first time in 111 years, since the construction of the Little Falls Dam, that salmon swim in these waters of deep historical and cultural significance to the Spokane Tribe of Indians. Thanks to a partnership among the Spokane Tribe, Inland Northwest Land Conservancy, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Waikiki Springs area is protected because of its ideal habitat for historically native but long displaced fish like the salmon.
Tribal leaders Monica Tonasket and Pat Moses shared the deep meaning this release held for the Tribe and offered a blessing for the spirits of the fish and indigenous ancestors who once relied on salmon for their livelihood. Isaac Tonasket sang a traditional song and then participants gathered to form a line as fisheries staff netted fish from the truck that brought them from Wells Dam Fish Hatchery to the site. Tribal members, community leaders, environmental advocates, and children helped to release the fish, weighing anywhere from 7-18 pounds, into the cool waters of the Little Spokane.
The Little Spokane River is ideal habitat for salmon because of the Waikiki Springs hillside, emptying 42-degree aquifer water into the river year round. Coupled with ample shade along the riverbanks, this keeps the water temperature moderate even during the heat of the summer, allowing fish like salmon to thrive. Because of this area’s cultural and habitat significance, State Representative Marcus Riccelli, with support from the Fairwood community and Senator Andy Billig, secured $1.5 million in state funding, allowing Inland Northwest Conservancy to purchase a 95-acre preserve adjacent to 104 acres already owned and managed by WDFW.
This 200-acre area, traditional gathering grounds for tribes from all over the Inland Northwest, is open to public enjoyment. Guests to the area are encouraged not to harass the salmon, whose radio trackers will allow Fisheries’ staff to learn about their movement and behavior in this environment. While not an official step in the Spokane Tribal Fisheries’ reintroduction plan, efforts to bring anadromous fish back into the blocked zone, this release will allow for education about the historical and cultural significance of native salmon. It will also help inform future reintroduction efforts as scientists begin to understand how the fish move through the Little Spokane River and its tributaries.
For more information about the Spokane Tribe’s efforts on behalf of local salmon, visit their website.