The Damming of the Elwha River

The Elwha is a river child, born of ice and snow,
Cascading down Olympic mountain sides;
Churning through its gorges, caressing valley floors,
It sparkles forty miles to Juan de Fuca’s tides.
Sockeye filled its waters in crimson summer floods,
And then swept in a quarter million pinks;
Hooked nose chums came in the fall and dug their shallow redds,
As the coho drove on for the upper creeks,
And then the winter steelhead flashed rainbow streaks.

FIRST          But the one they called the king would first appear in early spring,
BRIDGE       A fish of legendary size;
Bred to power up through the gorge, a hundred pounds, often more,
They were the Elwha’s famous prize.

The people of the Elwha prospered many times an age,
Making sacred what the river did provide;
And every spring a joyful ceremony they would stage
When the first of the giant fish arrived.
But then came the white man and the time of many tears;
He was self-ordained master of the earth.
He brought power saws and power blocks and power engineers
To convert the trees and fish to private worth,
And to dam the salmon from their place of birth.

SECOND     And whén the runs of salmon arrived, there was no way they could get by
BRIDGE      The dam to reach their homes to spawn.
Wave after wave of big fish tried to jump its flume ’til each run died,
And then one year they were gone.,

Never was a legal permit given for the dam,
Still it creaks beneath its robber load of silt;
And while they argue time and cost, the law remains a sham –
Let them mitigate eighty years of guilt.
So come you river lovers, if you be nature’s friend,
Come, press the politicians – don’t delay:
Let’s restore the wild salmon to the levels they have been,
And good laws we’ll make the profiteers obey;
Let us tear those killer Elwha dams away!

THIRD      ‘Twas ón a warm and sunny day, this year around the end of May,
BRIDGE      Down by the dam spillway I had a look.
&                I peered into the Elwha clear and a massive shadow did appear,
FINALE       And headed for the flume while I shook:
Oh, could it be a hundred pound chinook?