TRAVEL AND PHOTOGRAPY – BILL FERRY – Many years ago, long before the Columbia was dammed, Native American’s fished that river. Where the river tapered around the rapids fish gathered to run the narrow chute to get upriver. Because of the density of fish there, Indians built their fishing platforms and hung them perilously over the boulders and fast moving water. On the Columbia those days of waterfalls are gone but fishing platforms can still be found but over much calmer waters.
Not so on the Deshutes River in Central Oregon. Near the little town of Maupin a branch of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation envelops a small portion of the Deshutes, but, oh, what a rough portion. It’s called Sherars Falls (after an early American pioneer who built the first crossing here). Today you can find conditions much like they were here (and the Columbia) hundreds of years ago – in other words, fishing doesn’t get much more exciting or dangerous.
In the first image, note the safety line that connects this man to an unseen anchor point. He’s using just a net and must overcome the force of water and the weight of the fish to land it. The day before we were told that an Indian landed such a big fish (appeared to be over 35 lbs) than other tribal members had to come help him muscle it up to the platform. This time of year they are looking for Chinook salmon.
The second image shows you how this is a family event with three generations of Indians fishing. They seem to be doing things a little differently with a stationery net. Though most of the river flows in a narrow channel in front of the platform, you can see that the spring run off is heavy enough that shallower water surrounds their small refuge, making it even tricky to walk out to them. In many cases the fishing platforms have to be rebuilt each spring as river’s power weakens or ruins them during winter