Hot Dry Oxygen Depletion Characterizes the Seventh Summer


What a difference a year makes . . .


****** Lakes were not dry this August — as they generally are this time of year. . .  In fact they were full to the gunnels – painting a remarkable picture of saturation and hydration, seemingly with no visible sign of draught for the foreseeable future.

Yet just over the ‘hill,’ it is evident that a more sober reality had truly set in . . .

Last July we commented that roads alongside ***** Creek were closed due to excessive rainfall (and risk of rutting damage) . . .  And we commented that the creek was the highest we’d seen it in July, and that the flow was high through­out the system.

This August, some roads along ***** Creek are closed due to high fire danger, and the water flow is the lowest that we’ve ever seen in the system.  Reality is that the water is alarmingly warm, and – no doubt – the oxygen levels are deplorably low.

Range fires dominated the region on our last visit — and sunrise was badly obscured by smoke and haze, making for an eerie ominous sense of gloom – if not doom.

Hazy Sunrise

Notable walking was involved on this trip — yet the trek did yield a few phenotypes that may reflect at least some alvordensis composition and potential heritage.

Alvord Phenotype

Slender Alvord Phenotype

Some of the trout (like the one directly above) seemed to be extremely under-fed – and were uncomfortably skinny for mid-August trout.  Post-spawning may account in part; yet some of the trout are urgently skinny — seriously lacking in volume and weight to endure future hardships to come (especially hardships in the short term).

In fact, the low water—with warm temperatures—and no doubt LOW oxygen levels are critical factors for these trout and their survival.  I would implore all who fish for these trout at this time to keep especially respectable phenotypes IN water — and to restore them to the stream as quickly and gently as possible.

Low Water

For us — we will not be returning to the stream until the weather cools and the water conditions equally improve.  . . . A range fire in the region could be catastrophic for many — or most — or all — of the trout in this fragile system.

Though – we did keep a legal limit – of trout that were clearly not of Alvord heritage . . .


It may seem that the powers that be have abandoned the phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout that still exert their presence in ***** Creek — yet persistent ripples of hope still permeate this lonely basin and occasionally even the pages of academia; via the effort of biologists who may yet be in a position to truly do some good for these lonely survivors of generations gone by:

A publication entitled Fish and Aquatic Habitat Surveys at *******-**** ******** National Wildlife Refuge Complex was released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service this June… The authors: Sam Lohr, J. Michael Hudson, Marci Koski, and Timothy A. Whitesel freely note the thoughts of Dr. Behnke relative to alvordensis having been moved to this stream during the pre-hybridization historical period.

And they have good reason for that . . .  Among the photos published in the report, is this photo of a striking Alvord phenotype taken in the upper region of their study areas:

Upper Reaches Alvord Phenotype

The report indicates that USFWS recommends genetic testing of the trout in ***** Creek;  . . . and who knows . . . perhaps this testing can be accomplished in conjunction with the testing of the pre-hybridization alvordensis specimens in the UMMZ Hubbs’ collection!

During the course of the day we did catch other trout with general alvordensis indications:

in general Alvord Phenotype

While the sky became mottled with smoke-clouds from numerous nearby range fires . . .

Smoke Clouds

And the ride out, as we began to head home, still bled of the eerie soberness of the intense heat, depleted oxygen . . . and the ominous tone of probable difficult times for alvordensis.

Red Sunset

As we depart for a season, we only hope that the phenotypical Alvord cutthroat trout still left in ***** Creek will survive the extreme and hostile conditions of the seventh summer.


KOD 8-2012

About kortumofdiscovery

Kortum of Discovery (a slight play on Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery) is a family team that is Affirming the Exceptional Beauty of Nature, one Adventure at a Time. With a focus toward rare and endangered species in the Great Basin and American west: discoveries, unique methodologies, and many “tall tales to tell” are continually being shared around the campfire!
This entry was posted in ***** Creek Sampling, Fisheries Biology and Genetics, Observations, Photo Journals. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Hot Dry Oxygen Depletion Characterizes the Seventh Summer

  1. Joe DiSilvestro says:

    Thank you for the update.

  2. Wayne Smith says:

    Thank you, Dave. Appreciate the update (tho’ not the news). The story is a long one, but northern CA is pretty much home to us. I love chasing wild native trout in the little out-of-the-way places they call home. Would love to meet you sometime, maybe pick your brain about that high desert country. I’d like to visit it some day soon. What do you call home anyway?


    • Wayne; You are probably closer to these ‘extinct’ gems than we are from our home base, which currently is Eugene, OR. …Still have family/friends in SE Idaho, where I first learned to fish on the western edge of the Basin & Range – where it abuts up against the Rockies. From there through eastern WA-OR-CA there’s some commonality in the desert reaches, though it seems each ‘region’ has much of its own unique beauty, charm and ‘secrets’ to learn. Would be glad to share what little I can about these wide open uninhabited spaces.

      • Wayne Smith says:

        I’ll look forward to it, Dave. Redding (CA) is our home when we’re there. We’re currently in Colombia, SA. I actually grew up in northern Maine; it’s my wife who is from Redding. But I love both places now. Had a wonderful time this last few years chasing the trout of CA – last Sept even soaked in the rare privilege of catching a small Paiute cutt below the falls (and Tam. Ck) on SKC. Was still open there. That was the last of the eleven varieties. Beautiful country. Look forward to going back. But look forward to some new places as well.
        I look forward to meeting you in person. Beck has family -a brother- up in Salem. Next time we’re up (next year?), maybe we can work something out. – Wayne

      • Wayne Smith says:

        (the eleven varieties in the CA Heritage Trout Challenge, I should have said)
        Is this how you’d prefer I contact you when it looks like that might be possible?

  3. Patrick Sievert says:

    I was just there a few days ago, and you’re dead on about the creek being ridiculously low. I got there in the morning before the water warmed up too much. With so little water in the creek, the fishing was tough, especially with a 20+ mph wind. Trying to drop a fly into a 6″ gap in that wind isn’t easy. The biggest trouble was actually hooking up with the fish. I was afraid of jerking them out of the water and sending them flying who-knows-where, and with usually only a couple of feet of tippet out the end of my rod, it was hard to get a hook set that didn’t do that. So I missed a bunch of fish. But I did catch one really nice phenotype, and I lost another one that I could clearly see was a near-perfect representation. I also landed a couple of clear Lahontans and a couple that were somewhere in between.

    This one did accidentally get jerked into the grass, but after a quick picture he swam away vigorously.

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