By Emily Davis
On September 4th 2014, a giggly and squirmy group of twenty-five 2nd and 3rd grade students from Prairie City loaded into a school bus and made the journey over Dixie Summit into the Middle Fork John Day Basin. There, Jeff Neal at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Kristen Coles at Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs led the kids on a Tour de Middle Fork, including a fish ladder at Bates State Park, a fish screen and a pool of adult Chinook salmon on the Middle Fork Forrest Conservation Area (MFFCA) and the newly completed Phase 3 Tailings Restoration Project on the Oxbow Conservation Area (OCA).
“The kids loved being outside,” said Coles. “They were really interested in the Chinook redds we saw when we walked down to the river. And of course they all wanted to play in the water and on the logs."
Neal told the kids that they were seeing the project from the beginning, and they could come back in ten years when they are teenagers and see how much bigger the plantings had grown and how much more the river would be shaded.
“In fifteen or twenty years, the management of the Middle Fork will be in the hands of these kids, so it’s important that we give them the chance to build a connection to this place now,” explained Emily Davis, current Monitoring Biologist for the Forrest and Oxbow Conservation Areas. “Even if they don’t understand every detail of the science or the restoration project, we can help nurture their curiosity by letting them explore.”