I have worked for NOAA Fisheries for24 1/2 years as a Biological Technician. As we are research, we commonly do different jobs. Many projects last less than 5 years. But the Idaho trip is an exception.
This project started in 1987 and I joined the crew in 1988. That means this is my 23rd year of collecting, tagging, and releasing baby Chinook salmon and Steelhead. Put in other terms, I’ve spent over 2 and 1/2 years of my life camping on the job in Idaho while working this project. This blog will be written mostly in the woods where there is no internet, phone, or electrical service. I will be describing what we are doing and also some of the amazing and beautiful side trips that can be made after work.
We tag in 16 different streams. I will list them here, a trip to Google earth will allow an interested reader to home in on some of the sites. I suppose it is possible that a satellite happened to photograph us as the mapping from space is clearly done in the summer. These streams, in the order we normally work them, are…
- Bear Valley creek, Valley county, Idaho. 32 miles to the nearest town, Stanley, Idaho. Rafters floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon river pass this way to the launch at Boundary creek.
- Elk creek, Valley county. A tributary to Bear Valley creek.
- Marsh creek, Custer county. 17 miles from Stanley on highway 21.
- Cape Horn creek, Custer county. A tributary to Marsh creek.
- Sulphur creek, Valley county. About a 50 mile drive via Bear Valley to Boundary creek, then a four mile hike to a hunting lodge.
- Valley creek Custer county. Valley creek joins the Salmon river just north of Stanley.
- Loon creek, Valley county. A forty mile drive from Stanley, 15 miles of it is a horribly rough dirt road.
- Camas creek, Lemhi county. A 65 mile drive from Challis, Idaho on mostly good dirt roads.
- Herd creek, Custer county. A tributary of the East Fork of the Salmon river 35 miles from Challis.
- Upper Big creek, Valley county. A 75 mile drive east from McCall Idaho into the back country past Warm lake and Yellowpine, Idaho.
- Lower Big creek, Valley country. A 45 minute flight east into the back country from McCall.
- Chamberlain creek, Valley county. A 50 minute flight east northeast into the back country from McCall to the Chamberlain basin.
- West Fork Chamberlain creek, Valley county. A major tributary of Chamberlain creek.
- South Fork of the Salmon river, Valley county, 25 miles from Cascade, Idaho.
- Sesech river, Idaho county. 30 miles north of McCall.
- Lake creek, Idaho county. A tributary of the Secesh river.
As you can see, the distances and the logistics are large. What is unbelievable is that salmon can travel 800 miles from the ocean to reach their spawning streams. We catch and tag the little ones before they make their journey to the sea.
We usually work six days a week. One day off, or a spare day to make up for being rained out or gear malfunction. We have a crew of 10-20 people, depending on the work involved. This year the crew will be smaller.
This blog is the story of a season of salmon tagging in Idaho.