Our Job is Done Here, Where to Next?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Location: Bonneville Fish Hatchery

Fall Color at Tanner Creek

We completed our last week here at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in a flurry of activity. Fall is definitely showing its presence as all the deciduous trees and the conifers for that matter, have decided its time to drop their leaves. First were the small leaves of the honey locusts which, by the way, are difficult to round up with leaf blowers.

More Fall Color

If they are dry all one does is blow them up into the air where whatever puff of wind catches them, scattering them right back where they originated. After blowing them for an inordinate amount of time, trying to tame their uncooperative way, one finally just blows them into small piles and picks them up with a rake.

Other trees are dropping their leaves as well. Oaks drop their big leaves and making a big mess. The conifers drop their dead leaves all of the time but especially when the wind blows. It seems like no more dead leaves can fall from them until they do- with a vengeance. So a lot of time is spent during the fall blowing and raking leaves, which seems to be never ending………. sigh…. at least the honey locusts a now bare……..

The areas that look like someone has actually look great the longest are the walking paths at Herman’s House, the upper and lower trout pond areas, and the small sturgeon pond. Those areas are all cleared of leaves and other debris using just the back pack blowers. Other larger paths and street require the edges be blown with the backpack blowers then the bulk is suctioned up using the trailer mounted vacuum. They also look good after being cleaned. Due to their size they collect a lot more leaves and don’t look as good for as long.


The Gang Ready To Spawn


Male Coho

The coho salmon are ripe for spawning so thats what happened Thursday. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife biologists attended taking tissue samples of multiple fish which slows the operation down. Jil estimated that 700 female coho were spawned. Not nearly as many males are required as their milt is shared with the eggs of many females. All of the fertilized eggs were destined for Oxbow Hatchery which we understand will share a portion of their bounty with Eagle Creek.




Jil Assisting in the Spawning Room

One of the side benefits of volunteering here at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery is volunteering (or being volunteered) to help in the Egg Hatch House. That’s where the salmon eggs are raised and monitored until they hatch. When they are large enough they are placed in an outdoor rearing pond. Eventually they will be released into Tanner Creek in order to continue their journey to the Pacific Ocean. To ensure the majority of the eggs remain healthy they are constantly monitored. Dead and “twin” eggs are removed to keep those hundreds of thousand eggs that remain healthy.  Jil (and Connie on occasion) man their tweezers and pick out imperfect eggs for at least six hours a session. The hatch house is cold, the water is cold, the floor is cold. By the time Jil completes her task she is cold, her feet hurt and is generally miserable. That’s the life of a volunteer here at the hatchery!


The hatchery is a very popular field trip destination for school kids. Three buses full of grade schoolers arrive at the same time. I watch as the kids go yelling and screaming, playing tag, etc. The adults, at least two, maybe 3 per 10 kids don’t keep close tabs on the kids. Not a gripe per se, but I do remember going of field trips with a class of 30 and only our teacher to keep us kids on the straight and narrow. Anyhow, they all sit down at benches in the picnic area to consume their lunches. Normally we have a big dumpster adjacent to the picnic area but not today. The kids trash will up being stuffed into a trash can across the way- but the can isn’t large enough to contain all of their trash. God knows where the rest of it will be deposited.  So I put Jim and Connie’s clever plan into action. I approach each of the six benches loaded with kids scarfing down their lunches, introduce myself as a volunteer host, hand a large trash bag to the adults in charge of that particular bench asking that they please collect all the trash and place it into this bag and please leave the bag at the table, as I will collect the bags after they finish their lunch. Yes! This will work as well as Jim and Connie’s clever plan has ever worked!


When I return expecting to collect the six bags stuffed with trash I see only two……. where in the heck are the other four? Did the elders put the bags in their bus? Oh come on now! So I put on my sleuth hat to find the other four. Not in that trash can…… Oh wait, how about this one? Nope. Not in Mitchell Creek either. The last trash can I check- bulls eye and exactly what I was trying to prevent. Geez, how in the heck did they stuff all of that trash into that can? They must have taken turns doing a tap dance on top of those bags to compact them enough to fit. It nearly takes a pry bar to pop them out. So now I know why kids can’t seem to follow instructions- neither can their teachers.

The above activities describe our last day on duty at the hatchery. As afternoon turns to evening the rain comes right on schedule. I had planned on picking up and storing the sewer hose and water hose but Jil was still using the clothes washer. Okay, I’ll do that in the morning…….




6 thoughts on “Our Job is Done Here, Where to Next?”

    1. Glad to share with my beeg seester! No sadness. When the weather turns crappy all there is to do is empty trash cans and rake/blow leaves until the trees are bare. Amazing how much the conifer trees shed their needles!


  1. Hi Mike, Thanks for sharing your adventures at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. We thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of your posts. All the best – Bob & Bonnie


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