South Shore's Outing to Wallace River Hatchery and Wallace Falls State Park

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South Shore K-8
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Trip Types:
Educational, Hiking, Other
Visit the Wallace River Hatchery for an hour-long guided tour at 10:30 AM. Head to Wallace Falls State Park; have lunch at the trailhead (probably). Hike to lower or middle falls, time allowing, then head home!
We met at school at 8:30 and after some breakfast, had a brief circle-up to exchange names and talk about the trip. Kids grabbed gear and we headed out a little after 9, arriving at the hatchery by 10:20 AM. Eric from the hatchery gave us a tour for about half an hour; the students got to touch two dead Chinook salmon ("morts"), including a large female with eggs! The students had a bit too much fun threatening each other with the eggs. Another highlight of the tour was feeding juvenile salmon in a large trough. In general the students were in good spirits despite the rain. We headed over to the state park around 11:30 and had lunch in the vans (rain). It finally cleared a bit and we headed out from the trail head at 12:15 PM. The group spread out a bit - with three grades of students there was a big range of abilities (and leg lengths) - but we had plenty of adults to make sure folks stayed on the trails. We reached the lower falls around 1:30 and had enough time to get up to the middle falls. Once everyone was back down at the lower falls we took a group picture. We were back in the vans by 2:40 and, as traffic was light, decided to make a pit stop in Sultan for some hot chocolate, which was a big hit. Made it back to school at 5 on the nose. All in all it was a great trip despite the rain! It was nice to have two distinct activities to look forward to.
One area with room for improvement was the hatchery tour; it seems that the success of this is very tour guide-dependent. I asked our tour guide/biologist, Eric, to be sure to provide some broader concept of what the hatcheries do and why, salmonid life cycles, etc., with the context that these were middle schoolers with really no background info. Instead we heard a lot of very technical language with not much explanation (I think he only ever referred to the salmon by their run names, e.g. "summer Chinook", so I'm not clear the students even knew he was talking about fish). Next time I might try to provide some of that context ahead of time to prime the students. Another way to improve the tour would be to go a bit earlier in the season -- apparently we had just missed peak spawning, and we would have been able to see fertilized eggs with tiny growing salmon inside!