Sixth graders learning life cycles at the river got a close up look at how salmon spawn, thanks to the Calapooia Watershed Council.
Sixty five students from Timber Ridge School visited four science stations at Andrew Wiley Park, and learned about salmon biology. Then they hiked a quarter mile downstream on the South Santiam River to see the actual event, salmon spawning.
“They’re mostly white,” one boy observed as the fish thrashed in the shallows.
Oregon State University student Jordan Ortega, a volunteer with the field trip program, nodded. “They’re decomposing while they’re still alive,” he explained. “It’s important that these guys die so that every other thing can be alive.”
As students looked at him in amazement, he continued to explain that when the salmon die, their bodies break down and become food used by the other living beings in the river, especially the vegetation. That shades the water and regulates the temperature.
“Without all these plants, the water would be too warm and the fish wouldn’t be able to survive,” Ortega said.