Celilo Falls Salmon Fishing

Fishing Platforms

Fishing Platforms

After our trip to Celilo Falls in search of Trade Bead paths Owen picked up the October edition of Cowboys & Indians Magazine and there was a wonderful article about Celilo Falls! It’s called “On the Rocks”, written by Bryson Liberty, an 83 yr. old Umatilla Indian who knows personally the story of Celilo Falls. There are some really great pictures of natives fishing in the Columbia River at Celilo Falls in the 1950’s in the magazine article. Bryson tells the story of the Dalles Dam and Reservoir and how it affected the native population. Some great stories are in that article! There were approximately 480 fishing stations in and around Celilo Falls. Fishers built wooden scaffolds out over the roaring falls and used dipnets to catch salmon returning upriver to their natal streams. It was dangerous, hard work with salmon weighing up to sixty pounds. Fishers needed incredible strength to pull netted salmon to the scaffolds which were often slippery with river water and fish scales. The men secured themselves to their scaffolds with ropes that they tied around their waists in the event that they were pulled into the river.

Platforms on Little White Salmon River

Platforms on Little White Salmon River

As Owen and I traveled up the Columbia River Gorge on WA state highway 14 we came to Little White Salmon River that empties into Drano Lake. Drano Lake is a large backwater of the Columbia River at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River in eastern Skamania County. Chinook salmon returning to Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery power a popular sport fishery at Drano, especially in April and May, then again in September. Yakima tribal fishermen have built about a dozen platforms along Drano Lake. It is one of several tributaries fished by the Yakama tribe. The Yakamas are within their treaty rights to fish in any of their traditional fishing areas, including the Little White Salmon river. The Fish, Wildlife and Law Enforcement Committee of the Yakama Tribal Council on May 31,2011 authorized platform and hook-and-line gear beginning immediately in Drano Lake similar to the ones their ancestors used at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River. I can’t imagine that there will be any trading of beads going on…but one never knows!

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