It all started with a crazy question. Could I find the headwaters of the river I’ve lived next to for six years and walk from there to the sea?
The Salmon River is the perfect playground for exploration as it curls up against the coast range in a thirtymile long question mark, forming one of the coast’s shortest river systems. I became acquainted with it by poring over maps and satellite photos and interviewing hunters, loggers and agency personnel in the area. It took three tries before I reached its source, on the side of Saddle Bag Mountain.
I was accompanied on different legs of this four-day adventure by Scotty Evens, an ex-river guide and hunter; Matt Delaney, a forester; Katie Brem, a native plant specialist; Paul Engelmeyer and a coastal lands conservation expert; Rob Hollingsworth, chiropractor and expedition planner; and videographer, Ian Hietz. The following pages tell the story of our watershed expedition in journal entries and photographs. They are also a biography and tribute to the living system we call a watershed.
The mythical oasis of Lost Prairie comes into view as we make our way downstream. Named by the first loggers to penetrate into this wilderness in the early 1900s, it is Hollywood’s version of a headwaters. Old growth trees ring cerulean blue pools. The Lost Prairie cradles a dizzying array of species that inhabit the grasslands, skies and waterways.
Starting at an elevation of 2,500 feet, these waters will take less than twenty-four hours to make their thirty-mile gravitational journey west to the sea. In passing, this river will sustain living creatures in its watershed, while simultaneously wearing down the mountains as fast as the inner workings of the earth can push them back up.