Come August, Chinook salmon are spawning in the Walla Walla river. That wasn't the case 14 years ago. Salmon disappeared from the Walla Walla basin more than 80 years ago, destroyed by a combination of development, water diversion, and reduced flows. Since 1987, the Tribes have worked to restore fish habitat and passage, including the removal of two dams. Finally, in 2004 spring Chinook returned to the Walla Walla River thanks to the tribe’s reintroduction program and its Umatilla Hatchery. In 2010, for the first time in nearly a century, the tribe opened a tribal fishery on the Walla Walla.
We will visit the Umatilla Hatchery Satellite Facility, located on the South Fork of the Walla Walla River, to learn about the fascinating life-cycle of the salmon and witness the hatchery spawning process. This hatchery is operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
After, we will visit the Kentch restoration project that was completed in 2015. For over 100 years, the Kentch Reach on the South Fork Walla Walla River has been subject to extensive human-disturbance. Subsequently, the river channel was straightened out, isolating it from its historic flood plain. The result was a fast-moving channel devoid of any native fish spawning and rearing habitat. Ali Fitzgerald, a fish habitat biologist with the CTUIR, will share the history, process, and outcome of the Kentch Reach restoration project.
We will end the tour at the Frazier Farmstead in Milton-Freewater. You can visit the museum and enjoy your picnic lunch on its beautiful grounds.