Human smolts reach Washington

  • Swimming in the Salmon River were Gail Ater, Jamie James & Roy Akins

    William Brock
  Five mighty strange-looking salmon ended their 450-mile downstream migration at Washington's Lower Granite Dam July 25. In fact, they weren't salmon at all but an unusual swim team that started its expedition 25 days earlier at Idaho's Redfish Lake. Four men and one woman took turns in the water, following the outward migration route of juvenile salmon through the currents of Idaho's Salmon and Snake rivers. "We set off on this trip to push our limits and to bring attention to the salmon crisis," said Jamie James, leader of the Sockeye Survival Swim. "I think we've managed to do both." Free-flowing river currents carried the swimmers an average of 20 miles per day but, just like the salmon, they struggled to cross the 32 miles of slackwater behind the dam. En route, the swimmers discussed salmon survival strategies with people who supplied them with T-shirts, food and beer. The swimmers' finish line at Lower Granite Dam marks just the beginning of an eight-dam obstacle course for Idaho's salmon along the Snake and Columbia rivers.

*Diane Kelly