This past winter, 51 dedicated volunteers surveyed seven mile-long reaches of Johnson Creek for evidence of three different fish species: steelhead trout, Pacific lamprey, and brook lamprey. Evidence of these species can come in many forms, including live sightings, carcasses, or redds (nests) made of small rocks from the bottom of the creek. Lamprey are an important part of freshwater systems in the Pacific Northwest, and volunteers hoped to commemorate their long journeys from parasitic sediment-dwellers to fully fledged adults by recording their presence in our watershed this survey season. In pairs, volunteers strapped on waders and life vests and scoped out the creek from mid February through early May for a grand total of 54 surveys.
Below are a few quotes from the winter surveyors found in the Lamprey Diaries:
“[We] had the opportunity to talk with 4 different landowners, all very excited about lampreys and salmon in Crystal Springs.”
Laura Guderyahn, Christian Haaning
“We saw birds, 2 doves, crows attacking a hawk, a pair of ducks, a dead full crayfish, a snail, lots of little mushrooms.”
Rosie Logan, CarlaDean Caldera
“[We] Saw a 6-8″ fish breach the surface at Westmoreland Park area!”
Kirsten Leising, Wilson Yee
Lamprey are culturally significant to indigenous groups along the Pacific Coast and Columbia River basin. Aside from being a source of sustenance, the bodies of the ancient, eel-like vertebrates have medicinal and topical properties historically utilized by native tribes. The journey of the Pacific lamprey from creek to ocean and back again is one representative of self-discovery and appreciation of origin. The presence of lamprey in Johnson Creek is a feat of both culture and science, and the results gathered by Johnson Creek’s hard-working volunteers showed the presence of all three species. There was a surprising presence of large-scale sucker carcasses that Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife requested further information about.
On the evening of June 15th, the lamprey survey results were announced at a celebratory event hosted at the Wisdom of the Elders headquarters in the company of Johnson Creek Watershed Council members, Wisdom of the Elders staff and interns, and this season’s Johnson Creek lamprey surveyors. We nestled around a long table full of tasty dishes using ingredients that represented traditional Native American first foods: bowls of colorful berries, pumpkin chips, and a 16-bean soup prepared by Wisdom of the Elders’ own CarlaDean. Here we ate and watched segments of the Wisdom of the Elders documentary series, sharing our mutual appreciation of lamprey and recognizing the power of community science and culture that had brought us together that day.
More information on Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s lamprey surveys can be found here!
Article written by Emily Waters, Community Outreach Intern
Photos courtesy of Kim Brown, LeighAnna Morgan