After a year of withdrawing and isolating, we emerge from our COVID-19 hibernation eagerly but hesitant, like a fish wanting to dart from the safe shadows to the fast flowing currents in the middle of the river. We are ready to rejoin the vibrant variety in the cycles of life, to feel the seasons of change.
“Movement in Time,” a new painting donated to the Salmon Center in Belfair by Amy Burnett, symbolizes with its loose, uncomplicated imagery an awareness of transition from a year of restrictions to the freedom of exploration.
The Salmon Center is where the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (HCSEG) is located. Nestled next to the Union River Nature Preserve and hidden in the heart of Belfair, the nonprofit group works to bring the world of people and salmon together for all generations. It achieves this through education, restoration projects and research.
HCSEG also recognizes and celebrates individuals who have made significant contributions to protect wild native salmon through their work and lifelong commitment; notably, Billy Frank Jr. Certain individuals have been nominated to HCSEG’s Wild Salmon Hall of Fame, including Earl Sande, Burnett’s husband, in 2008. Sande served as a board member with HCSEG for over 10 years and has been an active fisherman all his life.
Salmon are an iconic figure to Hood Canal, celebrated by tribes and treasured for their rich history. Each year, the return of the salmon to the local rivers is a reminder of the gifts that nature brings. The salmon return each year to spawn and die so their offspring can live on to create another generation, providing sustenance to the creatures of this land.
In Hood Canal and western Puget Sound, natural salmon runs include summer and fall chum, Chinook, coho, pink and steelhead. Popular spawn-viewing locations are Chico Creek, Twanoh Creek at Twanoh State Park, Union River, Mission Creek at Belfair State Park and Sweetwater Creek.
A remarkable volunteer effort to count returning salmon on the Union River takes place each year in Belfair from Aug. 15 to Oct. 15. This annual event has occurred since 2000 and has collected important data about adult survival rates. There are four shifts per day and sign-ups for this and many more volunteer opportunities are available at pnwsalmoncenter.org.
As the first run of salmon returning to Hood Canal, summer chum provide the nutrients needed for the ecosystem and other runs of salmon, which in turn support orcas. When you see these magnificent creatures giving the last bit of life and energy, struggling upstream to reach native spawning grounds and complete their long journey from the ocean, you can’t help but marvel at the tenacity and wisdom of nature.
As these humble salmon, often called dog salmon, struggle against the river current, you see flashes of the marvelous camouflage coloring, with rich purple, magenta, olive green, orange and silver in streaky patterns, soon to be blended with the natural coloring of the mud and riverbanks in a constant cycle of renewal.
As the title “Movement in Time” suggests, we can be inspired to keep moving forward, no matter what obstacles or challenges lie ahead.