Last weekend, members of the Native Fish Society and the Blueback Chapter of Trout Unlimited invited folks to join a snorkel outing on the South Fork McKenzie River near Delta Campground/Bruckart Boat Ramp. Nine snorkelers from as far away as Portland met at 10am on the South Fork to learn more about fish conservation efforts of the two non-profit groups before donning wetsuits supplied at no cost for all in attendance and entering the frigid 49 degree waters of the McKenzie.
Snorkelers saw Chinook smolts, rainbow and cutthroat trout, sculpin, caddis flies, and a number of other species during the outing. The US Forest Service conducted extensive in-stream habitat restoration on the reach of the McKenzie that the groups snorkeled to improve habitat for spawning adults and rearing habitat for juvenile fish. Large Woody Debris (LWD as it’s called by restoration professionals) was pulled into the river and also helicoptered in by the Forest Service to create hydrodynamic complexity (fancy way of saying riffles and pools) which in turn creates different habitat types for fish. By entering the water with a snorkel, it was easy to see that fish preferred the areas where LWD had accumulated, and avoided areas where cover and habitat complexity was lacking.
For more on the Forest Service project, check out Water & Wood by Freshwaters Illustrated out of Corvallis. And for a peak of what the snorkelers saw during the outing, see this short film by snorkel participant David Merwin.
The next snorkel outing planned by NFS and the Bluebacks is scheduled for Sunday, September 21st on the SIletz River. To join the waiting list for a spot on that snorkel, email bluebacksTU@gmail.com.
Huge thanks to Conrad Gowell for leading the snorkel trip! Photo credit- Steve Meicke.