McCloud River redband

McCloud River Redband

6 x 14 inches, Shasta Red Ochre and Venetian Red on Paper, 2016
 

Votive candle design and writing for Diving Swallow Tattoo’s 2016 Day of the Dead event, profits to benefit the Siskiyou Forward Movement’s Groundwater Initiative Campaign which is seeking to set limits on corporate groundwater extraction from the Mount Shasta region, which directly affects stream flows for the Redband.

 

The Dream (2009)

I’m alongside a creek with trees overhanging either bank, deep pools and dark boulders. A big trout jumps out in front of me and dives down into a black pool below while looking back at me saying “Follow me!” with their eyes. The trout had very distinctive coloring and markings that I’d never seen before –creamy with lots of black speckles diminishing towards the belly and a reddish color along the side.

When I woke up, I looked through pictures in Trout and Salmon of North America and easily matched one to my dream before reading the name. Something profound happened when I read it–the McCloud River Redband, a unique species that I learned lives above the Middle Falls and is endangered. Much of my family history comes from McCloud, where my grandfather worked in the lumber mill for decades. Watkins Glacier, which feeds the Redband’s watershed, is named after him. But I had not known the Redband before this dream.

The Science (2016)

The trout from above the impassable Middle Falls of the McCloud River have been genetically isolated for thousands of years and have evolved into a distinct species known as the McCloud River Redband. They are thought to be one of the oldest populations of rainbow trout, called the proto rainbow by some fish biologists. Due to fish hatchery stocking in the Upper McCloud at the turn of the century, the genetically pure populations of Redband now only exist in a few small creeks along the east flanks of Mount Shasta. As these creeks are disconnected from the McCloud River in the summer and come from springs that flow a mile or two before going underground again, the Redband have been hit especially hard by recent dry years. In the late summer of 2013, dissolved oxygen levels were getting too low and temperatures too high in the Redband’s home. The Department of Fish and Wildlife made the decision to bring some Redband into captivity to protect and breed them. With improved conditions in the Fall of 2016, families of Redbands were reintroduced to the same stretches of creek from which they originated. So far reintroduction has been a success, but the overall prospects for the Redband given climate change are poor.

The Prayer (Now)

The prayer starts with the Mount Shasta glaciers –so deeply loved and now grieved–Whitney, Bolam, Hotlum, Konwakiton, Watkins, Mud Creek and Wintun. It would take a miracle for them to survive the predicted average temperature increase of 5°C by 2100, so we must now thank them for the millenia of water given so freely as they exit the physical world, and reconcile ourselves to holding them in our hearts always.

We pray for the Redband as for a loved one faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. That they find ways to adapt their exquisite rhythms to this utterly changed world. That they draw on their deep knowledge of changing climate (having survived several ice ages) to find cooler waters in even smaller streams and at higher elevations than they have ever lived before. That the Mayflies and Caddisflies, Indian Rhubarb and Alder, Springs and Snowmelt are able to move with them–feeding, shading and renewing them as they have always done. Most of all, that the Redband persists and does not succumb to this human induced sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.

And then beyond prayer, we act. Follow me.