Camas creek, my favorite stream


Here we are set up 8/6/10 on Camas creek.  We had a good thunderstorm the night before and the air was crisp and clean.  Fog rolled out of the Silver creek drainage for an hour this morning.

I always have liked this area.  It is secluded and quiet, with lots of wildlife.  Much to my wife’s chagrin, this area is also full of snakes.  There are, in order of abundance, water snakes, western garter snakes, bull snakes, western rattlesnakes, and rubber boas.  Rubber boas are unusual as they are the northernmost member of the boa constrictor family in the western hemisphere.  The are shy and completely harmless, a large adult is about two feet long.  We have seen two rubber boas in 23 years of working the salmon river basin.  One year we were trying to catch chinook parr with minnow traps.  We succeeded in catching the largest water snake I’ve ever seen.  It was easily three feet long and as big around as a shovel handle.  One year Neil got to watch a water snake nabbing fish from a branch above the water.  I also caught a miniature bull snake, as big around as a small soda straw.  It was so cute when it hissed at me.  It sounded like tiny raindrops on a hot barbeque.  Needless to say I was not intimidated.

I have also worked Camas creek every single year that we have been on this stream.  I know the stream and the people living nearby quite well.  There have been a lot of changes here in twenty years.  No more cattle graze here.  The stream flooded and blew out three years ago and the course of the stream has altered considerably.  We have permission to work on some private property that is gated and locked.  And this year I got the best campsite, it is shady throughout the day.  And the big bonus is…that there are no horse packers in here this year.  I don’t have to endure the cloying scent of horseshit while at work.  Big YAY!  I was going to camp up the road so my wife wouldn’t have to put up with it. 

Downstream about 1 mile from our camp is a fluorite mine.  I was told by the previous owner that is it the largest deposit of fluorite in the world, I can’t confirm if that is true or not.  Unfortunately, it is not profitable to mine it.  The nearest processing is in Ogden, Utah, a good three day round trip for a truck driver.  If the price ever goes up, the ore is still there, waiting.

I was unable to hook up with the owner of the property this year so we were not able to drive through the gate.  This was no problem as there were plenty of fish.  In fact, it would have been easy to tag double the amount that IDF&G allowed for us.   This would have been a mystery too me but for meeting another local.

We met on the road near Bailie springs, he was coming out of Camas creek.  As we talked, I found out he owned the Hidden Valley Ranch.  No, not the salad dressing.  There is a valley on the upper part of Camas creek that has a grazing allotment.  He owns that area and he has let about 4 other people build cabins on his property.  He invited me up that way and I couldn’t turn that down.  One small problem.  It is a six mile hike from the end of the road.  I barrowed a 4-wheeler and took off to see this valley.

The road is incredibly rough with three major crossings of Camas creek.  I tried going up on my motorcycle last year and the second crossing proved to be more crossing than I was brave.  The 4 wheeler was not at all intimidated and it took me up there as easy as could be.  1 hour to cover 8 miles and…here is the valley

It turns out that the bulk of the salmon spawning occurs here.  20 years working over here and I learned something completely new on this trip.  None of our other NOAA employees have seen this area.  The pictures aren’t great as the area near the stream is extremely brushy and for the most part inaccessible.  Taking pictures was an onerous task involving bushwhacking through the brush on cow trails.  Cows have a lot tougher hide than I do.  I also had to hurry coming back, another big thunderstorm was brewing.  I barely beat it to my trailer, but I did take time to shoot a picture of Castle rock.

This gigantic basalt edifice dominates the valley to the east of Meyers cove.  I’ve never seen it from the south until today. 

Back at camp, it rained off and on most of the evening.  Praxy and I just hung around and relaxed.  She also decided to go back to Pomeroy, the WSU financial aid department is being difficult about Leslie’s so-called Gate’s Scholarship.  Who ever heard of a full ride scholarship being a pay type?  You sure couldn’t get athletes going to school on that  kind of rot.  Time to get serious with ‘em.

The next morning we was a move day, we had got our 500 fish in one day.  I was cleaning around the tagging station and Praxy shot this picture or a pack string passing through.

They were heading for Meyers lake, a little gem with about a 4000 foot elevation gain from Meyers cove to the lake.  It’s a six mile ride, hike, pack, too far for one day unless you are horseback. 

The road out through Morgan creek.  This area is a renowned spot for viewing mountain sheep, but I haven’t seen a one on this road since the very first time I drove it.  Must be a fall season thing.

Next…on to Herd creek.

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About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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