The Salmon are Coming Back

Osmosis-Salmon-Creek-CohoThe salmon are coming back,
five words that contain a world of hope.

A dozen years ago poet and activist Gary Snyder* came to Osmosis. His vanguard writings on Buddhism and the environment have been a major inspiration in my life, and it’s a rare experience to meet someone who’s been so influential. After his treatments, I went over to the spa to greet him and show him the back part of the property. This was before the meditation garden, and I wanted to share with him my vision for the garden, and the aspirations of our community to restore the salmon run in the Salmon Creek, which forms the western boarder of Osmosis for 1,000 feet.

Gary thoroughly enjoyed the Oz experience, and encouraged me to build the garden. He also admired the intention about the salmon, but such an ambitious goal seemed generations away to both of us at the time. Until the 1960’s the Coho salmon run was so strong that the creek nearly overflowed with fish when they swam upstream to breed Old timers say you could walk across the stream on the backs of the fish! Then, in a few short years, they completely disappeared, the viability of their gravel spawning grounds ruined by the silt that filled the creek due to erosive timber, agricultural and building practices – and drought. In fact, from an all time high of half a million salmon, only a few thousand were left in California.

Two years ago a collaborative effort among state, federal and local conservancy groups resulted in a promising breeding program where Coho salmon were taken from neighboring Russian River and the Lagunitas Creek watersheds. The fish were bred, and their fry planted in Salmon Creek and many of its tributaries. Scores of people helped, from volunteers and private owners, to a host of interested agencies. These included California Fish and Game, the State Coastal Conservancy, the California Water Resources Control Board, the Community Foundation, the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and the restoration firm Prunuske Chatham, Inc. among others. (It’s amazing to me what strategic alliances can produce, and something to consider for the environmental challenges ahead of us.)

A few days ago, I received a request for permission to access our property to build special in-stream habitat structures to provide protection for the re-emergent strain of salmon that are now coming up our creek. As it turns out, the exposed gravel beds on the Osmosis section of the creek are ideal for spawning, and second year fry have been found in the pools- as shown in the picture above!

I knew all of you who appreciate Osmosis would also appreciate this wonderful news. We’re grateful to be a part of the story.

*Gary is often called ‘the poet laureate of Deep Ecology.’ Besides being a poet and environmentalist, he is a travel writer, essayist, educator, and translator. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for his poetry.