Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Virtual Illuminight 2021, live on Facebook, on Friday, Jan 29th
For updates on next year’s event, follow the lluminight 2021 Facebook Page.
Luminary ideas (from easier to most challenging):
Official 2021 Illuminight Poster
We at the Skagit Watershed Council know this community is doing what it takes to keep the impacts of the COVID-19 to a minimum in the Skagit Valley. We are all making personal sacrifices so that our loved ones and neighbors can get through this difficult time. Many individuals and organizations are working hard right now to make sure that environmental awareness and education are not among the things being sacrificed. On this page, we will be sharing our work and links to other online resources that may help our community.
2020 Virtual and Outdoor STEAM Programs in the Skagit Watershed – a list of programs in this area for K-12 teachers. This includes programs that have been adapted for virtual classrooms and resources for teachers who are homeschooling.
Home-based Education Guide for Teachers and Parents – a list of on-line resources to help students learn from home, especially resources that are based in this area and/or get students learning outside.
Home-based Entertainment Guide for Kids – a list of things kids can do to keep their minds and bodies moving while they are at home.
Home Rain Drain Project – a home-based STEAM project where students study the impacts their home has on the watershed. This project was designed with 5th/6th grade standards in mind.
Video: Southern Resident Orcas and the Problems They Face – This presentation was prepared for 9th-grade Biology students at Sedro-Wooley High School. It introduces the Southern Resident Orca Whales, the three main issues they face, and what people are doing to help. Presentation Transcript
By Richard Brocksmith, Executive Director, Skagit Watershed Council, for the 2019 Skagit River Salmon Festival Program
Many people in the Pacific Northwest have either grown up with, or have come to love, our Orca whales. They live alongside us in Puget Sound; they have strong, mother-led family groups who teach their young how to survive in the wide world; and their intellectual capacity and curiosity, maybe even feelings, have captured our imagination.
Most folks know our local Orca whales are in very serious trouble and might not survive much longer without significant changes from our human society. A few background facts that are important:
Southern Resident Orcas range from the Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada down to the California Coast, but historically spent much of their summers in Puget Sound. They historically had access to rich salmon fishing grounds that included the Fraser River, Puget Sound, the Columbia River, and the Sacramento River, all of which produced huge runs of Chinook salmon. This “biocomplexity” of having different rivers to fish allowed them to adjust their feeding locations as different rivers had higher or lower success in producing Chinook salmon from year to year.
Southern Resident Orcas historically chose Puget Sound in the spring and summer as they had ample access to Chinook salmon returning to the Fraser River in Canada as well as Puget Sound Rivers. Also, these Chinook demonstrate different run timing, so that some come back in spring, some in summer, and some in fall, providing that biocomplexity and thus reducing risk if one Chinook population should crash in any year.
Here’s where the Skagit River comes into play. Of all the Puget Sound Rivers, Skagit produces more than half of all wild Chinook, both historically and today, which is roughly an order of magnitude more than any other river. Anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 Chinook salmon return to the Skagit River every year! The Skagit is also the largest contributor of spring Chinook salmon in Puget Sound by far, with several thousand of them returning annually.
It’s easy to see why the Skagit is the most important Chinook producer in Puget Sound for Southern Resident Orca recovery! This is a fact that we as Skagitonians, or those that come to play in Skagit, can be very proud of, but also hopefully will embrace as strong environmental advocates for preserving and restoring this special place!
Time is of utmost importance as our Orcas face a very real threat of extinction. Read ahead in other articles in this pamphlet to learn what specific things you can do to help salmon and Orcas today!
By Richard Brocksmith, Executive Director, Skagit Watershed Council, for the 2018 Skagit River Salmon Festival Program
Thank you for joining us again this year at the Skagit River Salmon Festival to have some fun and learn how to ensure the preservation of the Skagit River and its salmon resources. We won’t achieve this goal without your help!
There are as many reasons to preserve this amazing area as there are perspectives heard in the watershed. That’s because we each have a different history and context for living, working, and playing here that has shaped our sense of this place and our community.
For instance, family and tradition are words one hears often when talking with local, native American tribal members about the importance of this place. Marilyn Scott, Vice Tribal Chair for the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, says “It’s just so special when you hear some of the stories that are passed down from generation to generation. You can bring your family out to a creek and go fishing and have that experience that is shared as part of your story.” To not have access to those resources could be devastating to a family’s quality of life and relationship to the land.
Another important part of our community is the agriculture sector, with the early pioneers settling here five generations ago. Mike Youngquist is a perfect example with his great grandfather homesteading 40 acres in 1886 just west of Mount Vernon. He believes the area is extremely unique in that it nurtures deep roots, cooperation, and optimism in the community that provides the ability for farmers to handle the struggles that inevitably pop up. And the place’s natural beauty and productivity are integrally tied to the Skagit River. “It’s the lifeblood of this valley,” he said.
As much as anything, the Skagit Valley is also defined by forests and forestry, with most of the upper watershed covered in trees. Mark Hitchcock, a local, lifelong forester, grew up and spent his career in the deep woods of Washington. He sees the Skagit as “special because of the juxtaposition of all of its natural resources from forest to saltwater and the islands,” including “the interface with our use of the land.” He says he “loves seeing the swans and the snow geese” in the fields and it “makes me realize that we [humans] are still part of the natural environment and we do live in a very glorious place.”
Saul Weisberg, Executive Director of the North Cascades Institute, has been bringing youth and adults in the community together to share experiences in the Skagit since 1986. “We may not always be in agreement, but we share experiences because we live here together, and that is really powerful,” he says. One gets the sense from Saul that our different experiences are like the thousands of headwater streams of the Skagit, all flowing down in a lifelong journey to join together to form our creeks and then finally the mighty Skagit itself. And that this epic, life-giving, metaphoric waterbody both supports our community, and depends on our community, for our common good.
So, what do these folks all have in common? They’ve each expressed in their own way that to preserve what we love about the Skagit River we sometimes have to challenge ourselves and the perspectives we find ourselves in to come together as a community and work together. Scott Schuyler, the Natural Resources Policy Representative of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe says “We have so many resources in this valley, but if we are not working together – the agricultural, the tribal, and citizens in general – we are going to all be impacted” by their loss. Similarly, Mike Youngquist, the farmer, says “If we’re harming the salmon, that’s one issue – we can’t do that… We all have to work together to make it work.”
Please join them, join us, and challenge yourselves to see other’s perspectives as we work together to preserve the Skagit River and its communities.
Wow, the Skagit River’s natural salmon and trout resources are one of a kind! This wild place produces a huge part of all of Puget Sound’s native fish, including 60% of it’s wild Chinook Salmon. It’s the only river in Puget Sound that produces substantial runs of all of our native salmon and trout species, and it’s one of the main bull trout strongholds in the entire United States!
Many folks know that it is world famous for steelhead fishing, but not many know that hundreds of thousands of pounds of steelhead were harvested every year back in the early 1900’s. That’s huge, almost hard to imagine what that was like!
While we don’t have great historical records, we do know a lot more these days. For the last 40 years, state and tribal governments have done a good job counting fish on their spawning grounds, and that “escapement” estimate tracks the health of the population. We also have a good idea of where fish spawn and where their young rear or grow, which helps us create maps of their distribution.
Future features here will explore why we see fish populations fluctuating up and down. Tell us what you would like to know about Skagit’s native fish!
Click the fish and explore each species’ health and location in more detail!
The Skagit River Salmon Festival is a celebration of salmon as a magnificent, sustainable, natural resource right here in our backyard! The Skagit River is the stronghold for salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound, and honestly, our region’s best chance to save salmon from being diminished, and arguably our community at the same time.
Usually a short story like this would relay our Skagit salmon story, what they need to survive, how much of that was lost before we knew any better, and what one can do to help. And of course all of that information is available at the Festival each year or local websites.
But this article is about something else. It’s about us, Skagit’s communities, and what we want and need from the ever-changing world around us. It’s about nothing less than our very own prosperity and cultural legacy; and what our children and grandchildren will conclude about us in the future. Continue reading
Linda Sanford has been a Realtor in the Skagit Valley for over twenty-years. Passionate about her niche market, healthy homes and intentional living, Linda describes the valley as the emulsion of saltwater, alpine wilderness, wildlife, and community; “The Skagit is just magic… and there really isn’t any other place like it. It really is a pristine jewel.”
Linda was working as a Realtor in the Seattle area when she became interested in intentional living. She began her education, focusing on eco-housing, intentional living, net-zero, and green building, earning certificates in the field as she expanded her knowledge and credibility. She moved north to find a community strong in agricultural and adjacent to salt water and found it in the community of Anacortes, WA. Continue reading
If you love seafood, then you know the Skagit Valley is a special place to enjoy the bounty of the Sea. John DeGloria, owner of Slough Food in Edison, celebrates the seasons through food. Winter is oyster season, summer is for Dungeness crabs, and in the fall, salmon is king. The access to fresh, healthy food harvested locally is something worth celebrating.
For John, what makes the Skagit Valley so special is the farmland. The Skagit Valley’s fertile soil is a result of thousands of years of the Skagit and Samish rivers flooding their banks and weaving across the valley while depositing nutrient rich soil along the valley floor. “You don’t really have to seek out good organic food here, it’s pretty easy to come by” John said about the abundance of fresh food from the valley. Today, there are over 200 commercial crops produced within the Skagit Valley, worth nearly $300,000,000 annually. (WSU 2017 Skagit County Agriculture Stats) Continue reading
For Mary Janda, the Skagit River is more than a natural resource, it’s a teaching tool. For the past 26 years, Mary has taught in the Concrete School District; utilizing the Valley’s natural resources and the outdoors as a classroom. “I got those kids outside so they never would forget,” she recalls. Continue reading
A Uniquely Skagit Childhood
Deanna Ammon’s Story of living in the Loretta Creek Logging Camp
Imagine growing up in a logging camp across the Skagit near Hamilton. Your house was a railroad car, the only way to access modern civilization was to take a ferry ride across the Skagit River. This was normal life for the first three years of Deanna Ramey Ammons, a life-long Skagitonian. Continue reading
It was Love at First Sight
Anne Schwartz’ Story about seeking a lifestyle connected to the land
Seeking a lifestyle that was more connected with the land, natural resources, and seasons, Anne Schwartz headed west in 1975. Initially destined for California, Anne stopped in Sedro-Woolley, WA to visit friends from Rutgers who found work in the timber industry after Forestry School. “It was love at first sight,” she describes her immediate connection to Skagit Valley. Anne and her husband, Mike Brondi, both had grown up in New Jersey. Most of their family and classmates were destined for jobs where you do the same thing day in and day out for 50 weeks out of the year and then you have your two weeks of vacation. They knew that lifestyle was not for them. “Coming to the Skagit Valley from New Jersey was literally like falling into paradise in 1975. It was really easy to find work, the people were so welcoming and friendly; people were really nice to each other.” Anne worked seasonal jobs off and on in the Skagit Valley while also studying Animal Science at Washington State University. She worked sorting potatoes, in the bulb fields for Lafeber Farms, and at a veterinarian clinic in Mount Vernon under Dr. Ray Bradberry. Continue reading
Anita Luvera Mayer, the daughter of Italian and Croatian immigrants, has spent most of her life in Anacortes. Her mother’s family came from Splitska on the island of Brač and her father from Reggio, Italy when he was just 12 by way of Alberta, Canada. Her father, Paul Luvera, owned a grocery store in Anacortes from 1922 until 1957 which also served the fishing industry during each summer. Continue reading
Saul Weisberg remembers when it hit him. In the early 1980s, he and two friends were on a climbing trip in the Pickets, a notoriously hard-to-reach chain of icy peaks high in the North Cascades. After 10 days of sipping snow melt in the high country, he recalls coming down and drinking deeply from mountain streams that eventually flowed into Big Beaver Creek. They crossed over the creek on giant cedar logs, or waded along the edges as they followed it down through lush forest to arrive at Ross Lake and finally, the Skagit River. On the drive home, they pulled over and sat on the river bank. That’s when he knew.
“I had this sense that this place was all connected,” Weisberg recalls. “And I was a part of it. I didn’t really know what that meant, but it felt like, ‘This is home. This is a good place to call home.’” Continue reading
Mark Hitchcock’s life in the woods
When Mark Hitchcock reflects on Skagit Valley’s unique character, one particular memory comes to mind. He was serving his first term on the board of the Skagit Conservation District when baseball season came around. He and his wife Alison joined a team of folks from the District, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Farm Service Agency. Fittingly, their uniforms bore the white and black pattern of a Holstein cow. They named themselves “the Lagoons,” in an effort to draw attention to an important issue at the time: managing dairy waste in manure lagoons. Unfortunately, this resulted in an unexpected nickname from opposing teams: the L.A. Goons.
Despite their winning outfits, the Lagoons managed to lose every single game that season. “In the final game, we played the only other team that had not won a game yet,” Hitchcock recalls with a laugh. “They did manage to beat us.” Even though they had a rough season, Hitchcock remembers it fondly. Reclined in a rocking chair in his home on Samish Island, Hitchcock wears an air of affability with a glint of humor in his eyes above a red beard. “We had a lot of fun playing baseball and staying tight to the work.” Continue reading
Mike Youngquist’s agricultural roots in Skagit Valley run about as deep as they get. In 1880, his great-grandfather John Jungquist immigrated from Sweden and homesteaded in 1886 a 40-acre parcel on what would become Jungquist Road. Mike was born in 1943 and raised on that same land where his father (Don) and grandfather (Emil) ran a dairy farm. He worked on the farm through high school, studied agriculture in college, worked summers in the Skagit pea fields, and eventually returned to carry on the legacy of working the family land in 1970. Today, he lives in his grandfather’s house, no longer grows crops, but still packs and markets strawberries and raspberries with his wife (Jeanne) as Mike and Jean’s Berry Farm. Continue reading
The Upper Skagit Tribe’s vision of the valley spans many generations
When Scott Schuyler was a kid, he learned to love summers in the Skagit the hard way. Early on, he learned that to be successful at fishing you had to be committed, so on the night before opening day of every salmon fishing season, he would take his boat to the river to try to secure his place at the front of the line. The hope was to be the first boat down the river in the morning to get the first pick of the choicest fishing spots. As night fell, he would curl up in his boat with a tarp for a blanket and try in vain to get some sleep, his head full of visions of flashing silver in the green waters of the Skagit River.
“You would spend the night waiting in your cold boat trying to sleep, but you never slept,” recalls Schuyler, who is now a tribal elder. “It wasn’t so bad in the summer even though it was cold. But in the winter, it was miserable because it would usually rain.” He laughs. “So, I love fishing in the summer.” Continue reading
Did you hear the news? Skagit Land Trust is looking to acquire a property on Samish Island that would protect a mature second-growth forest, shoreline on Padilla Bay, and would be open to low impact public access. When I heard that the Land Trust was giving tours of this property, I had to check it out for myself. Continue reading
Featured in 2015 Skagit River Salmon Festival Program
The Skagit River is home to five species of salmon and three species of trout, and produces the largest amount of these fish of all of the rivers of Puget Sound. This is largely due to its size (third largest river on the West Coast), high quality headwater areas in the Cascade Mountains, and the high diversity of habitat that juvenile fish use for rearing in its middle and lower reaches.
The Skagit produces about 50% of all the Chinook salmon in Puget Sound each year. Unfortunately, this king of the salmon is greatly reduced from historical abundance. Scientists have strong evidence that spawning conditions are abundant and of high quality in rivers and streams of the upper watershed but that the habitat in the floodplains and estuary where they grow up (or rear) limits their survival. This makes common sense because if the baby fish don’t have places to hide, feed, and grow before being swept out to Skagit Bay at a small size they are much more likely to perish. Continue reading
You all know by now that the mighty Skagit River is the king of salmon in Puget Sound, with all species of native salmon and trout still producing a substantial resource for people to harvest and to sustain our natural environment.
Unlike many salmon runs in Puget Sound, the Skagit’s populations are hanging on, but their health is a mixed bag and there is cause for concern. First, the good news is that sockeye salmon runs into Baker Lake are increasing significantly, providing expanded fishing opportunities for fishermen and fisherwomen in Skagit County. Steelhead are on the rise again as well following a reduction in fishing for a few years and some reforms in hatchery practices that we all hope will lead to restored fishing opportunities in 2018 in the Upper Skagit River. Bull trout are stronger in the Skagit than anywhere else in the United States. And even Chinook salmon are holding steady here. Continue reading