Podcast! From the Okanogan to the Sea

with Lynda Mapes of The Seattle Times

In this interview-style episode, Lynda Mapes of The Seattle Times joins OHA in discussing her newest book, Orcas: Shared Waters, Shared Home. From Tonasket to the Salish Sea, our ecosystems are connected by the water and the wildlife that travels through our region. Learn about salmon, orcas, and the people whose lives revolve around the aquatic habitats of Washington on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you normally listen!

And here is a story from Anna, Nature Detective!

Anna surfaces briefly, then glides back underwater, swimming against the current. It is a fast current, and the cold, clear water feels just right against her red sides, her glinting scales. She is headed upstream, back to the place she was born.

As she makes her way upstream, away from the ocean, she is thinks back to the last time she was in fresh water.  Anna barely remembers that trip downstream four years ago, she was so small! As she swam from the river to the sea, the waters gradually got saltier. She knew she had arrived in the sea because the water moved differently – in and out and in swirls, pushing every which-way. She had to get used to that salt, the currents, and the new animals and plants she swam past, and there was no time to dilly dally.

There was lots of food to eat in the sea, but there were also lots of creatures that wanted to eat Anna and her salmon friends! She found her way out to the deep water, where she could hide from the big barking sea lions and the huge bald eagles that pounced from above. Anna snacked on whatever came along – fish, water bugs, anything, really. Out in the deep water, Anna felt a little safer – she could swim fast and deep and she could swerve like a champ! Black and white orcas were everywhere. They were there in the deep water, they were there in the shallow water, they were close to land and out in the open sea. Always on the prowl, the orcas were fast and somehow knew right where the salmon were, even in the dark. As time passed,  Anna got bigger and faster and smarter.

One day something told her it was time to head for home, back through the shallow sea to the river mouth, where that fresh water smelled so familiar…

Anna woke with a start. “Mom, I dreamed I was a fish! A salmon! And I was four years old, just like me, but I was really OLD. There were rivers in my dream, and the ocean, and other fish, and sea lions, and orcas! Can we go to the ocean?” Anna’s mom said, “wow, what an exciting dream! You know what we should do? We should go down to the river – I bet we can see salmon in the Okanogan River right now!” “Yeah, let’s do it!” Anna yells.

As Anna and her mom watched the big salmon holding their position in the river’s current, they thought about the lives of these big fish and the cycle of life for the salmon and all of the people and wildlife that depend on them, like the orcas in Anna’s dream. Soon, these surviving big fish would lay their eggs and then die, but even then they are a part of the system, their bodies nourishing the plants and animals that live in and around the rivers. How amazing is that? Anna announces, “I love salmon. I want to learn all about them and I want to be their friend.”

To learn more about salmon, orcas and the rivers that connect them, check out the new Highland Wonders Podcast episode: From the Okanogan to the Sea, featuring a discussion with Lynda Mapes about her new book, Orcas: Shared Waters, Shared Home, co-published with the Seattle Times.

Additional Resources:

Learn More:

Read the Book! Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home by Lynda Mapes

Find an Exhibit! Seattle Aquarium: seattleaquarium.org/exhibits/Orca-shared-waters-shared-home

Learn Even More:

Okanogan River Sockeye: https://animalbiotelemetry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40317-021-00262-y

Okanogan River Spring Chinook: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/west-coast/endangered-species-conservation/upper-columbia-river-spring-run-chinook-salmon

Fish Water Management Tool: douglaspud.org/about-us/district-videos/

Colville Tribes: colvilletribes.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=ac4721130e424df786eb06dbbb4a5880

Take Action to Protect Land and Water:

Okanogan Highlands Alliance: okanoganhighlands.org

Okanogan Conservation District: okanogancd.org/

Note: There are many local organizations to help landowners protect and restore their land and water – Google Search is your friend!

Write to Your Senator:

Senator Patty Murray

154 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

Senator Maria Cantwell

511 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

Or find your senator’s contact information: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

Okanogan Ice Islands: Nunataks

…with George Thornton

Join us here on January 7th, 2022 (or on our main homepage) for the link to join the event from home via YouTube.

Click the button above to go straight to the Okanogan Ice Islands: Nunatak event on Friday, January 7, 2022. The presentation will begin at 6:30 (but you will be able to check in and get situated starting at 6).



Beyond the beauty of Chopaka, I’ve come to know the mystery behind the unusual collection of Arctic tundra remnant on the peak. I’ve wondered what it tells of our past and  whether it offers a glimpse  into  our future.” -George Thornton

High, craggy peaks rise to the West of the Okanogan. These mountains are home to unique plant communities, and our glacial history holds a clue as to why and how those plants come to live where they do. The changing climate endangers these indicators of  our glacial past. In this edition of Highland Wonders, we will discuss various theories about local natural history and ecology using Chopaka Mountain as a primary example of several nearby Eastern Cascade peaks. 

Join OHA and George Thornton, high school teacher, botanist, and lifelong nature enthusiast, on January 7, 2022.  George has lived his entire life in the Okanogan. He taught for 33 years, worked summers doing vegetation surveys for the Forest Service, and has hiked  and explored most of the north Okanogan area.

We hope to see you there online!

Podcast! Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan

with Helen Lau, botanist with the US Forest Service

Anna, Nature Detective. Illustration by: Diana Weddle

Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) is thrilled to announce the start of season 2 of the Highland Wonders Podcast: an opportunity to learn about the natural history of the Okanogan from the comfort of your home, car or skis! Over the course of this winter, monthly episodes will focus on the life that makes the Okanogan such a unique and beautiful place, starting with the Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan! You can find episodes here, or wherever you normally get your podcasts.

Each episode will be accompanied by a nature detective story, where a younger audience can follow along as Anna, Nature Detective, uses her imagination and explores the podcast’s subject.

The stories and podcasts will be posted to the OHA website (okanoganhighlands.org) and on the following podcast apps: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts and RadioPublic. Please read, listen (rate the podcast on your favorite app) and enjoy!

Anna, Nature Detective

Season 2, Episode 1: Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan

Last year, Jack the Nature Detective took us along on his adventures in the Okanogan Highlands, as he explored with his family and learned all about local wildlife, from grouse to bats to owls to bighorn sheep to common loons. This year, Jack is off to kindergarten, and in a solemn ceremony that took place at the end of August, Jack presented his cousin, Anna, with her very own Nature Detective tools and an official badge. Let’s get to know Anna!

Anna is a different kind of Nature Detective than Jack. Where Jack is cautious and careful, Anna is daring and precocious, where Jack is quiet and observant, Anna spends half her time singing and the other half chatting. Where Jack is particular about calling things by their proper name, Anna makes up her own names for her discoveries. She LOVES animals, and she is the kid who can catch the cat that no one else can. She loves exploring things close up, touching them, peering at them through her Nature Detective hand lens. Sometimes, things that can’t run away suit Anna’s detective style best, and so, this month, Anna finds herself exploring the mushroom world!

“Hey mom, what are these slimy things?” Anna hollers from the back yard.

“Ohhhh noooo, not again!” her mom remembers back to the week before when Anna brought two heaping handfuls of deer droppings into the kitchen. She runs outside to find Anna poking at a perfect circle of mushrooms growing in the backyard. “Oh, how pretty!” Anna’s mom says “I think that’s called a fairy ring.”

Anna gasps, “a fairy ring? Made by fairies? Let’s check it out!” She pulls out her hand lens and looks at the top of one mushroom. It’s smooth, brown and slippery. She looks at the stem, tan and shaggy. Then she looks at the underside of the mushroom top. “Wow! What are those stripey things?” Anna and her mom look carefully at the mushroom, and then Anna draws what she sees in her notebook. Later on, they look in a book and find that the top of the mushroom is called the cap, the stem is called the stem, and the stripes underneath the cap are called gills.

“So… mushrooms have gills… like fish. And a cap, like an umbrella. And I don’t know why, but they grow in a circle like a fairy would make. I’ll call this a Fairy Gillyhat!” Anna says. Anna and her mom go and wash their hands, because, as their book told them, some mushrooms can be poisonous. From that day on, Anna finds mushrooms all over the place – growing on tree trunks, in the grass, on logs in the forest, everywhere! But why are they everywhere? And why are some poisonous, but some you can eat? What do mushrooms eat? Anna has lots of questions, and luckily for her, Helen Lau, of the US Forest Service has lots of answers in the latest episode of the Highland Wonders Podcast!

Learn all about Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan (and catch any Season 1 episodes that you may have missed) at: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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