Thoughts on Cantara Loop

On June 4, 1991, fishermen and residents of the area saw nearly 40 miles of the Upper Sacramento River essentially sterilized, and oddly enough, we were probably lucky it was metam sodium and not something more persistent.

via Trout Underground talks Cantara Loop Spill, 20 years on.

That’s where I grew up.  My folks still live in Dunsmuir.  My home water is the Upper Sacramento River, the same river cleansed by that spill.

I didn’t really know it before the spill.  Sure, I had fished it, but not with the intensity I did later.

It was the summer between my Junior and Senior years in high school and my first experiences with fly fishing were still a few years in the future. We knew something bad had happened, but we didn’t go near the river.  It was all a bit scary.

The most amazing thing to me is how the river came back.  It came back on its own in its own time.  There were no trout planted, no bugs were imported, no plants were brought in.  The river just healed itself.  It took a few years, but it healed.

It is a promising story.  It give me hope that so many of the things we’ve broken might just heal, if we let them.

Natural repair


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  1. I remember that day vividly. As a CalTrout employee in those days, I spent that entire day glued to the pay phone in the Kangaroo Courts (Redding health club) lobby. But the river did have some help in healing.
    There were two miles of river above the spill that were uneffected, so DFG captured eighty eight wild rainbows from this area and spawned them in the Mt. Shasta hatchery. The result of this spawning, over twelve thousand fish, were freeze branded and “seeded” back into the sections of river farthest away from tributaries. Since most of the natural spawning takes place in the tribs. it was lucky there were still enough fry still in the tribs when the poison killed the river. Some plants and aquatic insects were also “seeded.”

  2. bonefishbjorn

    That’s funny… I never knew about the “seeding.” I wonder how much of an impact that had… there is so much water, I wonder how much the seeding actually impacted the re-birth of the river.

  3. We have relatively good prespill population data but nothing recent to compare with. CDF&G has done no recent comprehensive counts so that “How good” and “where” is unfortunately conjecture.

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