Chinook salmon in Pole Creek

Chinook salmon travel 900 miles from the Sawtooth Valley to the Pacific Ocean through a gauntlet of eight dams, spend two to three years in the ocean, and then return to spawn a new generation.

STANLEY — Celebrate salmon spawning in the Sawtooth Mountains at the annual Sawtooth Salmon Festival on Friday and Saturday, presented by the Sawtooth Interpretive & Historical Association and Idaho Rivers United.

See wild salmon spawning in the streams they were born in and celebrate wild Idaho, wild rivers and the miracle of wild salmon — an annual tradition in Stanley.

The weekend festivities will begin at 5 p.m. Friday at the Stanley Museum, Idaho Highway 75, with the final Sawtooth Forum and Lecture Series talk of 2019 featuring Russ Thurow, a well-known United States Forest Service salmon biologist and expert. Thurow has nearly 40 years of experience investigating Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead and is one of the foremost experts in Idaho. His talk, “Born to be Wild: History, Status and Recovery of Wild Chinook Salmon in Central Idaho,” will cover many topics including the state of wild salmon today.

Take an educational tour to see salmon spawning nests in the Salmon River from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, starting at the museum. In addition, there will be activities and live music by area musicians with food and drink — burgers, brats and brews from favorite Idaho vendors.

“Central Idaho and our salmon are special,” Tom Stuart of Idaho Rivers United, which has led challenges to federal salmon policies for more than 20 years, said in a statement. “In salmon recovery, central Idaho — including the Stanley Basin and the middle fork of the Salmon River — will be the measure of success or failure. These watersheds, pristine and protected, contain excellent salmon spawning habitat that is now virtually vacant. In the 1960s, the middle fork supported more than 20,000 salmon redds — nests — and 40,000 to 50,000 Chinook annually. Stanley Basin supported a vibrant fishery; anglers came from across the U.S. to fish for salmon here. Now, our salmon have almost entirely disappeared, and 2019 has been a terrible year. If wild salmon are not restored here, they will not be restored anywhere.”

The Sawtooth Interpretive & Historical Association and Idaho Rivers United are nonprofit, member-based organizations. All programs are free of charge, but donations are gladly accepted. For more information on programs and membership, go to discoversawtooth.org or email Sarah Cawley at scawley@discoversawtooth.org. Idaho Rivers United programs are online at idahorivers.org. Staff members will be onsite in Stanley to answer questions about memberships and support.

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