The Teanaway River. The Yakima Rivers’ largest Freestone Tributary. The Teanaway River is a scrappy little river that has etched out his place against the rugged Enchantments, sandstone bedrock, through years of lumber harvest, gold mining, farming, some of its species going extinct like the native bull trout and salmon, to droughts, fires, and climate change…you name it the Teanaway has dealt with it. Still flowing…sometimes 11 cubic feet a second…trickling until it comes back to life with the rain and snowpack every season.
Lets talk scope about how big the Teanaway referred to as the T from now on. I have seen the T hit 10,000 cfs and I have seen it trickle into the Yakima as low as 9 cfs. In the span of 5 months I have seen it drop like that. You can review the historical data to see for yourselves on the BOR site. That River at one time would let out 15 plus thousand cfs. But it would also retain several 100 thousand acre feet of water within its Basin before man came around.
You can see pictures of the T from when the loggers, gold and coal miners showed up. You couldn’t even walk up the river or the woods for that matter. It was thick with trees some of them almost 1000 years old in places. There are still some left way back up in the high country. I found them. A few horse people know what I’m talk about. The things those trees know.
That river used to be one giant log jam from top to bottom. As it became developed for resources as well as living, the river was stripped and the flood plain wiped away. All that water that used to be retained lost in massive melt off events that washed away centuries of natural processes that made the T a bastion for native species of trout and other wildlife above and below the rivers surface.
The gravity of what the Teanaway used to be is lost on us. Only a few photos remain and only a select handful of people even recall that time these days. All that beautiful sandstone we love and think is so gorgeous. We shouldn’t see it. It should be covered in acres of gravel, stone, organic debris like wood and leaves, but its not. That is the bedrock. Not the substrate. The whole valley should literally be higher in elevation. If you look at LIDAR images from surveys done for conservation work you can see how the river used to flow.
It was a windy, constantly turning on itself, back winding, S curving, 90 degrees after 90 degrees. Huge pools and back skews would form around woody deposits, and these log jams were the size of high school stadium bleachers in places. Holding snow, and water all year long. There used to be glaciers back up in there. I’ve climbed and mountaineered their remnants. It was rugged beyond description. Only a few places like that still exist back up in there. Miles from where the road ends at the Ingalls trailhead.
Grizzly and Black bear, wolves, some of the largest Elk in the lower 48, 3 species of salmon, wild steelhead of their own specific genetic strain, a resident population of gentirically specific Teanaway River Bull Trout that have since gone extinct as well. Beaver, river otter, osprey, eagle, and of course the Teanaway River Westslope Cutthroat Trout. A genetically unique subspecies of Teanaway River Trout that are also one the last and farthest west reaching Westslope Cutththroat. Once you travel over Snoqualmie Pass and pass over the North Cascade Divide…all the Cutthroat Trout are a different species entirely. The Coastal Cutthroat Trout. Kinda neat huh?
Like the Bluebacks or Greenbacks also native subspecies of westlsope Trout that are super unique so too are our Teanaway River Westslope Cutthroat Trout. They hold a special place in my heart. For years I chased them with a small fly rod. Entranced by their beauty, their wildness, and their ferocity to a fly no matter if they are 3 inches or 18 inches. Those Yakima River cutties we love catching…where you think they come from? They are unique in color compared to other cutties like those of Montana or Idaho. They have a much more magenta or rise colored gill plate, a brighter chartreuse in the tail, larger leopard style spots, and two of the most neon of orange slashes that give them their namesake. These fish are in a position to really start recovering. With more work, help, and understanding of what makes them tick we already know so much. I have spent more time in recent seasons just enjoying the Teanaway. I volunteer time here and there but its in good hands and is on the right path. I will always come back to put more time into the Teanaway, and always thankful for all that have and continue to work on the restoration of that Teanaway Watershed.
As I came into conservation I dedicated hours upon hours to those fish. Learned more about them, developed a deep held respect and passion for them. The ability of these scrappy little Trout to continue to adapt and survive against literally everything that should have wiped them out is astounding. They still find a way. They have seen all but themselves leave their watershed. They are all that is left. The bulls are gone, salmon trying to be rehabilitated, steelhead…a few left…some years. The Westslope’s are the last stand.
This year they are at the advantage! The snow pack has been glorious and it is almost June and we still have 90 plus percent! It’s been seasons! There has been damn near a decade of constant habitat restoration work in the upper drainage and small tributary creeks. It is making a difference. The water is coming out of the Basin more slowly, more naturally. It’s not chocolate silt, which isn’t good! That is being deposited back into the river bed. It’s rebuilding the stream end back! Years from now areas where that sandstone lays bare…will be covered. Riparian zones are returning, land owners and users use the water more efficiently than they ever have.
As the river breaths, so to does the world around. It is something I get to see and be reminded of every time I float by the confluence or drive along the windy road up into the waters I have come to call my own.
It is an amazing place. Cherish it. Respect it. I have played in it’s waters depths, mountains, and forests since I was knee high to a duck. Before roads were paved and gates installed. Before campgrounds or guard rails. It’s a special place to many. Enjoy all that it offers. The Teanaway River is truly a Gem filled with a treasure of wild trout.
To be able to walk in the waters and chase trout I know have been hiding up in there all spring this season is an absolute gift. I hold every moment in those woods and in that water close to my heart. With a year like this in terms of snow, the excitement is thick to see if the large adult Trout are seeking out that small water like they naturally should. Chasing them with fly and rod or fins and snorkel, just to be able to witness them in any form and way will always be a pursuit of mine. It envelops my mind at times. Has for years. I invite you to see what it’s all about. You’ll see, whether with me on a trip or discovering the Teanaway on your own…I invite you to experience the gem and treasure it is.
See ya riverside anglers.