Salmon Mosaics and the Sockeye of the Cedar River

The salmon have returned to spawn on the Cedar River, primarily Chinook, Coho and Sockeye. Their journey was not a simple one.  Having left the Pacific Ocean, they entered Puget Sound, made their way through the Ballard Locks,  into the fresh water of Lake Washington, and are now fighting against the current to return to the place of their birth.

I was happy to see them in great numbers at Cedar River Park – their beautiful colors shining beneath the surface of the river like a mosaic.

I took these pictures near the Weir, a strange looking contraption designed to capture Sockeyes for transport to the fishery at Landsburg.

But why?  The answer is a bit complicated but goes something like this:

  • The Cedar River Watershed provides drinking water for the City of Seattle;   When the Landsburg Diversion Dam was constructed in 1901 it created a barrier to salmon and other migratory species.   In 2003 facilities were added to allow the fish passage into the Seattle’s Municipal Watershed upstream of Landsburg Dam.
  • A fish ladder and sorting facility provide passage for adult salmon, steelhead, resident rainbow and cutthroat trout and other migratory species. Because of their much higher numbers, sockeye can pose a risk to drinking water quality. Sorting facilities at the ladder allow the exclusion of sockeye from above the dam.
  • As mitigation, the hatchery produces fry to replace those that could have been produced above the dam. Hatchery fry supplement production from sockeye spawning in the Cedar River below the dam.    (For more info on the watershed see City of Seattle)

I was sad to see the captured salmon. I wish they could travel their final course naturally – without man’s interference – even though they have the same fate no matter how they make it up the river – to spawn and die.

In fact, sockeye aren’t native to the Cedar River.  They were introduced after the river was rerouted and the Ballard Locks were built almost 100 years ago. Still, I’m glad they’re here now. Aren’t they beautiful?

~ Susanne

12 Comments on “Salmon Mosaics and the Sockeye of the Cedar River

    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. I finally had to put the sockeye story into words as every year I visit the Cedar to see the salmon but always forget why the weir is there. I think I finally got it! 🙂

  1. Great photos of the salmon under water, Susanne. I am jealous of your chance to see that colourful wonder. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Thanks for the lovely images! They reflect the colors so beautifully and almost look like watercolor paintings. I also enjoyed hearing more of the history of the area around Ballard Locks, a place we’ve visited a few times.

  3. Beautiful indeed…and if we over-fish and/or deny them their natural path we will mark the end of them and that won’t be good for anyone will it

    • Salmon are a big part of our NW history and culture. Beautiful and strong. I”m glad they still make their journey out to the ocean and back. I agree it would be a shame to lose them in the wild.

  4. This must be one of those beautiful nature’s marvels we must appreciate and protect at all costs. Thanks for sharing – those colours are amazing

  5. I clearly remember my parents taking us up to Bonneville to watch the fish climb the ladders. Thanks for showing how it is done now in Washington.

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