A River Recovers

Life bursts out of the mud, Elwha River

For months I have been tracking the recovery of the Elwha River in Washington's Olympic Peninsula. After the removal of two obsolete dams that have been barriers for salmon for a century, the river is now running free again, from headwaters to the sea.

One of the big questions has been how quickly the river valley would recover. I'm happy to report that the lake-bottom sediments that have been exposed are already bursting with life. Moss, flowers, even trees, are already taking a foothold. What remains to be seen, however, is how well they do when the summer drought (yes we have a drought here in the NW every summer!)

To document the process, I go to the Elwha every week, photographing anything that catches my eye. In this image, I was struck by the wonderful patterns made by small plants just getting started in the mud along the river's bank. I used a very wide lens to get close, and create a sense of immediacy. But the beautiful patterns are all Mother Nature's handiwork.

Nikon D3, 17-35mm lens



    Your photo plus the fact that tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of Colorado’s largest wildfire, the Hayman Fire, reminds us that nature has an almost uncanny ability to recover from disaster. As I drive through the site of the Hayman burn and see how far the forest has come since 2002, I know that future generations will again see the majestic aspens and pine trees that once populated that area. Although the current fires in New Mexico are also that state’s worst in history, I am confident that recovery will occur.

    James, thanks for the comments, and the perspective. Yes, one day the Hayman site will show no sign of the fire, and the Elwha will run clear and free again, full of salmon. We may not live to see it, but nature operates on a longer wavelength than we do.

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