Saturday, July 23, 2011


We put in on the main channel of the Snohomish River. This is ish river country - most of the river names, at least those with something like their original names, end in -ish. The Skykomish isn't far away and neither is the Stillaguamish. We are just a bit over a mile upstream from the Salish Sea. This is a tidal estuary. We are starting on a flood tide, but the once it is in there will be little change for the next twelve hours. With a predictable current and water level we stand less chance of having to portage out. Less than a mile into the trip we spot two osprey nests, both with young inside.

I have often driven past this place, but not taken the time to paddle here until today. The main channel of the river is broad and was once more industrial than it is now. It is slowly sliding back to a more natural place, but it will be a long time for the evidence to disappear. When we get to the upstream end of the island that we started from, we find a few channels to choose from and the main channel is the least interesting. A wrecked fishboat draws us up Deadwater slough. This is still a place where things are abandoned and no one comes to remove them. We find the remains of three large boats in the slough, but there are probably more.

We return back down the slough and follow a fairly wide channel, which leads us to a smaller channel, which draws the curious in. The island that is on the map in this place was once farmland, but is now being reclaimed to its former saltwater estuary status. It is a maze of narrow channels. Some go through, some don't, and some go through at higher tides. We follow one that was once the drainage for the farm. It still flushes in either direction with tides, so it remains deep although it is a narrow and intimate route with grasses, reeds and the tops of logs that were driven in to support the bank. (Unlike a river marsh, route cannot be determined in a tidal marsh just by watching the flow of the water - it can go in either direction, and sometimes it is just filling or emptying a basin with no outlet) This channel brings us to a broad flooded area, an area of shallow water that would be mud flat at low tide. The channels that lead in and out of this place can be tough to find. We take one that dead ends, return, and have to bust up a fast current for 10 yards through an old levee to try another route. We wind along that and come out to the east channel of the river.

We follow the east channel towards the sea, not intending to get to that open water as the wind has come up. This is a new place to me and my location is estimated by bends and inlets. After a mile, we enter another inlet back into the island that we had come from. This leads to another broad flooded area. The effects of returning to saltwater estuary can be seen. There are stands of ghost trees - silver-grey in death, killed by the return of the brackish water that belongs here. A pair of bald eagles uses one as a perch. We follow a deep channel through the shallows and find ourselves back at the same gap in the levee that we had gone through an hour and half ago. We meet G. here, a fellow that comes in here often and we have a talk. We are of the same mind about places like this.

And so it continues until we find our way back to the main channel. As we round that point, we spot a 30 foot cedar dugout canoe. It is part of the annual canoe gathering that the area tribes take part in. The Swinomish are hosts this year and they live a long day to the north by canoe.

We meet up with G again at the take out. I have met my match in talking...but he has good stuff to say.

1 comment:

Glenn said...

Scott, thanks for word-crafting a beautiful picture of your trip. Next time we meet I'll work hard not to "out match" you with words! :) It was a pleasure meeting you. G.