Ten runners bring salmon from Pacific to Klamath River in 2012 Salmon Run

By Robert Husseman, The Triplicate May 29, 2012 12:00 am

Run promotes awareness of salmon issues

J.R. Cedillo was the first to make it to the Klamath River boat ramp.

Cedillo, 24, a member of the Yurok Tribe who lives in Sacramento, was a participant in the 10th Annual Salmon Run, held Friday morning in Klamath. In his hand he carried a hand-carved wooden salmon sculpture, painted according to Yurok tradition.

“I’m visiting for the run,” Cedillo said. “It’s good to run. I love (getting involved) for a better cause.”

About 10 minutes later, Sammy Gensaw, 18, of Klamath, arrived with the second baton — a similar hand-carved salmon. Gensaw, a student at Klamath River Early College and Yurok Tribe member, took a shortcut along the 10-mile route along Terwer Creek. Gensaw, in his third year of participation in the run, let the wooden salmon float in the water as he ran alongside for a short distance.

“It’s the biggest (salmon in Terwer Creek) in a long time,” he joked.

The Salmon Run began Friday morning at 5 a.m. under ideal distance running conditions — cool and clear, the sun brightening the landscape by the minute. Ten people showed up on Klamath Beach Drive, at the mouth of the Klamath River, to begin the trek.

“Lot of no-shows today,” said Josh Norris, a member of the Yurok Tribe Planning and Community Development Department and an organizer of the event. “There’s usually a way better turnout. Everybody uses every excuse not to show up.”

The salmon batons — dipped into the Pacific Ocean as a blessing — arrived at the Klamath River Boat Ramp off Klamath Glen Drive at about 6:30 a.m. A boat ferried the salmon and another runner to a point along Highway 169, after which the batons will be relayed to locations in Hoopa and Orleans.

Hoopa was the site of Friday’s “Fish Fair,” an educational event for students in kindergarten through eighth grade “teaching them about environmental issues related to salmon fisheries,” according to Norris.

The inspiration behind the Salmon Run is derived from the 2002 fish kill in the Klamath River — “the first major adult salmonid mortality event ever recorded” in the river, according to a 2004 report released by the California Department of Fish and Game. The report estimated that at least 34,000 salmon died of bacterial infections; low flow and volume in certain areas of the river created the conditions for the kill.

Inspiring the execution of the Salmon Run is a “lost tradition” of the Yurok Tribe, according to Gensaw. Yuroks would cook fish at the mouth of the Klamath  River to appease a spirit and then send cooked pieces of fish up the river to neighboring communities.

Pearl Gonzalez, an Americorps member and food systems coordinator for the Yurok Tribe, was a first-time participant in Friday’s run. Though she did not run the full 10 miles, she appreciated the purpose with which the event was conducted.

“I thought, ‘I have to participate even though I don’t think I could do this,’” Gonzalez said with a laugh. “It was really nice. I would advertise it more. (The tribe will) want to encourage more participation. They should have men and women, if not run (the course), at least walk.”

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