Mini-Alaska ~ Autumn Spawning on the White River

Mini-Alaska ~ Autumn Spawning on the White River


Autumn is coming! The days are getting shorter, there is a crisp snap to the air, and the first rains are blowing in from the Pacific. To celebrate the changing of the seasons, Aubrey and I went out to the White River, east of the Cascades, and paddled the 14 miles of the twists and turns upstream of Lake Wenatchee. The tributaries of Lake Wenatchee are one of five spawning grounds for sockeye salmon in Washington, and now is the time that they are beginning their upstream migrations. Sockeye salmon fry (the baby fish) are unusual compared to other salmon in that they need a lake to mature, before they head out to the ocean (though land-locked populations also exist, called kokanee).

The river was never more than 300 yards or so from the road, and yet, it felt like a real wilderness, almost like being far from civilization in Alaska. In addition to the salmon, we saw bald eagles, river otters, american dippers, and lots of evidence of bears (paw tracks). It’s nice to see a healthy wilderness ecosystem thriving so close to civilization.

A calm moment on the river at the beginning of our float. Photo by Aubrey.

The view from my packraft as Aubrey comes around the river bend in her kayak.

Autumn Color, Leaves, Washington

Autumn colors slowly take hold of these maple leaves along the White River in Washington’s Cascades.

Sockeye Salmon, Spawning, White River

Aubrey paddles down the White River, past a group of spawning Sockeye Salmon. 

Male and female Sockeye Salmon (male is the one closer to the top of the frame).

Sockeye salmon swim through the shallows to calmer water upstream.

Our camp, on a gravel bar in the middle of the river.

Some unexpected rains materialized in the evening, just as we poured ourselves a manhattan. No problem… boat-umbrella to the rescue!

Tags: cascades, packrafting, paddling, white river