Saturday, May 23, 2015

The State of Snake

Hells Canyon, Oregon

Years ago, Jim Riley, serving on the Langley Planning Board, advocated community planning based on watersheds, rather than lines on a map. He was right, to my way of thinking, but he couldn't get traction for the idea. I think of Jim's idea often as we travel along the Snake River.

Starting at an elevation of 9500 feet in Yellowstone National Park, the Snake River joins the Columbia River after 1036 miles of meandering. It drains 109,000 square miles and contributes 36 million acre feet of water to the Columbia. In our nation's rivers, it ranks 6th in volume. Can you just imagine the State of Snake, for planning purposes?

We've been camping at Oxbow in Hells Canyon for four days, biking, hiking, driving, exploring. And, sometimes enjoying the rain around the campfire. Fishing is good too, judging from the fish our neighbors are bringing home each evening and white water kayaking is popular, although it's still too early in the season to see any activity. No question, Hells Canyon, with all its dramatic beauty, is a popular playground. But its key value is cradling the Snake River, which is the name of the film in the visitor's center.

Earlier we had driven along the Snake River in southern Idaho, where the shores of the Snake were more pliable, made up of soil, rather than stone. Its flooding adding fertility to the land and its wetlands acting as huge sponges. Us humans have dammed, redirected, channeled, polluted, bridged and drained the Snake River in every way imaginable, many immensely damaging. My mind takes me to the water management possibilities if we had a State of Snake.

But enough State of Snake speculation and back to real life. Our visit to Hells Canyon was made even better, when on a bike ride, we meet these charming folks from Perth, Australia, riding across America.

If you haven't been to Hells Canyon, we recommend it!


"I like geography best, he said, because your mountains & rivers know the secret. Pay no attention to boundaries."

- Brian Andreas, Story People: Selected Stories & Drawings of Brian Andreas

1 comment:

  1. "Your mountains and rivers know the secret" -- ah yes, they certainly do. I didn't know about the concept of community planning based on watersheds. What an intriguing idea. Let's talk about it!!