Fish ladders and falls

Dad and I went on a little adventure across the state yesterday, racking up about 280 miles on the car. But only one geocache, which is a little on the “light” side for a journey like this.

The trip began with a drive to Yakima and then over to the Little Naches River along Highway 410. At the Little Naches River, we stopped to visit Salmon Falls and the Ladder of Hope fish ladder. We then went a little further along the road to visit Horsetail Falls before returning to the main highway for the rest of the drive. Both waterfalls were lovely but in very different ways.

Salmon Falls has a “drop” of about 10 feet and is probably 30 feet wide and is a gradual cascade. It looks more like white-water rapids than a stereotypical waterfall. Part of the river diverts into the fish ladder giving an interesting dual view: One of a stepped fish ladder and one of “natural” falls. I really like both – and I especially loved them in juxtaposition to one another.

The big rock at Salmon Falls fish ladder on the Little Naches River

The fish ladder at Salmon Falls is called the Ladder of Hope and really does add to the beauty of the area. There is a small interpretive sign at the viewpoint, although it is badly weather damaged and very difficult to read. But I have managed to transcribe the text below.

Horsetail Falls is a couple of miles further along the road and is nearly 60 feet tall. It flows over a rock ledge into a small pool that feeds into the Little Naches River. There’s a very “secluded” feel to it, despite only being a couple of hundred feet from the road. I’d say it’s a great picnic spot, but it likely gets too much human traffic to enjoy a peaceful lunch. It is certainly one for your camera though!

Just me and Daddy at Horsetail Falls along the Little Naches River

Leaving the falls behind, we re-joined Highway 410 and made our way across Chinook Pass (which only opened a couple of days’ prior). We made a couple of stops along the road – including Fifes Peak, a geocache find, and a picnic lunch – then made our way across Highway 18 to Snoqualmie Pass to get back home again.

It was a long day with a lot of miles, but definitely a good day, too.

The Ladder of Hope

[The text below is from the on-site interpretive sign]

The cascading water of this fish ladder carries with it a story of history, engineering, biology, and, most of all, hope.

Salmon were once plentiful in the Pacific Northwest. In less than a century, most of the large migration runs of these fish were gone. As people moved into the Columbia River Basin, they brought along the technology to build dams for power generation and irrigation. Commercial fishery ventures were begun, and new fish species were introduced into the Columbia River system. These combined pressures created challenges for native fish and some species began to decline.

In 1987, Wenatchee National Forest biologists and engineers designed this fish ladder to make it easier for Spring Chinook Salmon to reach the spawning areas of the upper Little Naches River. Each stepped pool is separated by a wall (weir). These pools provide a rest stop for fish on their upstream journey.

Salmon are protected along the Little Naches River. You can help salmon by camping away from stream banks and keeping motor vehicles out of streams. By working together to enhance salmon habitat, we can ensure that future generations will enjoy this spectacular fish.

Little Naches Spring Chinook swim 500 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Look for their arrival in this ladder from late-May through mid-September.

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