The first salmon of the year was caught here Sunday. I found out when I was walking to my post and I saw a crestfallen Imes beckoning me into the fish freezing building. There, in the cooler, was a fish much like the rainbow trout we have been catching but bigger, stronger, and wilder-looking -- a sockeye salmon, an uneasy look frozen on his face. This salmon had just returned from a 5 year long, nearly 7 thousand mile roundtrip journey into the depths of the
The first salmon of the summer is quite a big deal here at Brooks River, as it has been for the last 4000 years or so. To the precursor of the modern Eskimo -- the remains of whose dugout houses sit a few hundred yards from my current cabin -- it meant an end to the starvation and struggle of winter; the promise of a few rich and fruitful months that would make the rest of the harsh year worthwhile. To us today it still signifies an opportunity for world class fishing, but more importantly it gives us an important message: the bears are coming.
He have been seeing a few bears around camp, mostly some young females, but over the last few days it has started to pick up. I watched a sow rest while her three cubs, all different shades of blond and brown, played in the surf of
A few days ago the salmon were just gathering at the mouth of the river. Now they are starting to come up into the river, and some people have even reported seeing them try to jump the falls. Soon, the spectacle that this river is famous for will commence as bears congregate at the falls and the lower river to fish and fatten up for the winter. Equal to the spectacle of the bears will be the spectacle of the bear-viewers; starting in July we get hundreds of visitors each day who fly in in the morning and out in the evening just to see bears for a few hours. For now Brooks Falls is just a small waterfall on a mile-long river, and standing there it is hard to believe that such a seemingly insignificant place is the basis for the health of an entire ecosystem, the survival of a community of brown bears, the strength of a regional economy, and the spiritual fulfillment of thousands of people.
(picture coming soon)