The Klamath River: Stories Behind the Salmon

© Ford E. Lowcock, II 2009

Here, Ron Reed, Cultural Biologist for the Karuk Tribe, illustrates traditional dip net fishing in Ishi Pishi Falls, an ancient fishery and sacred falls of the tribe.

ron reed, dip net fishing
© 2008 Ford E. Lowcock, II

Coho salmon, an endangered species. Chinook salmon, diminishing numbers. Political fighting to possibly remove 4 dams. Water quality. water usage rights. Ancestral/cultural tribal rights and needs. People's livelihoods and societal needs for farming, ranching, timber and commercial fishing. And, the privileges of personal enjoyment of nature, swimming, rafting and fishing. What connects all of these issues? The Klamath River.

The Klamath River stretches some 270 miles from south central Oregon to the north coast of California. For every mile that the water flows there is a need. Every need, every mile is different than the previous and from the one yet to come. With so many differing viewpoints come potential controversy, conflicts, and finger point when "things" change to the worse. September 2002, thousands of fish lay dead on the banks of the Klamath River.

Conflict does spur news. Who caused it? Who's fighting? Who's right? Who wins?


This project will educate through photographs and words on the positive things being done to help the salmon in their runs each year to ancient spawning grounds, and to keep water quality clean and water flowing. This project will be documenting people who are working to make a positive difference in the Klamath bio-region.

Ford Lowcock, special projects photographer and Professor of Photography at Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, CA, who The Foundation has joined with, has already photographed some of what the men in the Fisheries Resource Department of the Karuk Tribe (in Orleans, CA) have been doing to monitor the infant Coho salmon. The 3 photographs you see here depict some of what they are doing to measure, weigh and electronically tag the fingerling Coho salmon. Ford has been on a redd survey with the Salmon River Restoration Council. You can see more photographs and read their stories by going to Ford's web site.


The men of the Fisheries Department of the Karuk Tribe are using a seine net to capture the infant Coho salmon for their monitoring practices.

sein netting
© 2008 Ford E. Lowcock, II

measuring infant Coho
Measuring and weighing infant Coho Salmon.

injecting an electronic tag
Injecting an electronic tag to allow continued data collection.

Now, Ford has been invited by the landowners in the Scott River Valley to document/photograph their stories on the positive practices that the farmers, ranchers and timber industry are and have been doing for the salmon and for water quality in their valley. This is a very unique opportunity since Ford has already photographed 2 groups of people that normally sit on the other side of the environmental issue fence. The entire Scott Valley is privately owned. The Scott River Valley is also an ancient spawning ground for the salmon, so showing what and how the people in the valley are providing for the fish and water quality is an important issue to this story on the Klamath watershed.

Ford has also been invited by the Klamath Common Ground Alliance to photograph some of their members and how they are working together to create the best common good. Their membership is comprised of farmers, commercial fishermen, environmentalists and the Karuk Tribe. They range from the upper basin of the Klamath River in Oregon, to the coastal waters of the Oregon and California and back up the Klamath river to Orleans, California. This part of the story will also include Tule Lake, Bald eagles and one of the countries largest migratory bird sanctuaries. Commercial fishermen who raise fertilized salmon eggs that are being "planted" in historical spawning grounds that have been cut off to the salmon for many years by debris in the water ways blocking fish passage. Everyone is anxious to see if these planted eggs will survive the birth, the growth cycle in the waters of the Klamath, the 2-4 years in the open ocean to only then return to their newly opened spawning grounds to repeat the cycle of salmon life in the Klamath.

Elk Creek Trailhead
elk creek trailhead
© Ford E. Lowcock, II 2004

The Foundation is asking for support of this project. Each 7-14 day trip to document these various areas and people costs a minimum of $1,000. Camping in a tent much of the time, Ford has already made some 10 separate trips to make the photographs you can see on his web site. For your donation, you will receive 2 things. The first is a signed print (no mat and no frame) AND documentation from The Foundation that you have given to a non-profit organization, which you can submit with next year's tax forms as a charitable gift for a tax deduction. For a donation of $400, you will receive a 20"x24" signed print; for $275, receive a 16"x20" print and for $175, 11"x14". To make a donation, please click here, and thank you.

spear head
© Ford E. Lowcock, II 2009

The prints will be produced on Fujiflex Crystal Archive Supergloss material, which is a special polyester-based silver halide material, known for increased contrast, great shadow detail and vibrant color. It has the highest glossy brilliance of any standard photographic paper manufactured today. Fujiflex is one of the most stable photo papers made; testing by Wilhelm Imaging Research indicates a 60-70 year display life (no direct sun) and 100+ years if kept in dark, cool storage.

Afternoon Rim Light
rim light
© Ford E. Lowcock, II 2006

Donated funds will only be used for expenses and items directly associated with the production of this project, which would include, but not limited to: film, processing, printing, travel expenses, equipment (rental and purchase), a possible stipend for an intern to assist Ford with marketing/web site/scanning and possibly for hiring a pilot & plane for some aerial photography.


The images that you will be selecting from for your print is how this project first began, water landscapes, but first let's meet Ford E. Lowcock, II. Ford is a Professor of Photography at Santa Monica College. Ford, to date, has produced a number of photographic exhibitions and his work has been acquired by a number of corporate collections, which includes The Gresham Collection - University of Texas at Austin, Citibank (Dallas), the Austin History Center (Austin) and the Los Angeles Main Public Library, and other private collections.

"The whole Klamath area is just beautiful. It is also extremely rugged in its terrain. I love being around water. I have photographed waterways for many, many years. I have produced 2 other projects on water: Barton Creek in Austin and the Los Angeles River. Listening to running water in a creek or a river, 2 different types of sounds, but both are just as beautiful to the heart. Watching cascades and waterfalls are absolutely the best reality show I could ever hope to see. Water is life. Water is about the spirit of living. I love water. It is motion. This part of the project will show the waterways, the forests and mountain ranges, and the people who make the Klamath watershed their home. These water landscape photographs are the backdrops behind the people's stories, water and of the salmon.

Melting Into the Salmon
melting into the salmon
© Ford E. Lowcock, II 2003
Morn'n Color
morning color
© Ford E. Lowcock, II
© Ford E. Lowcock, II 2006
© Ford E. Lowcock, II 2009

Most of the water images have an exposure time between 1-4 minutes. These extended exposure times create a motion in the water, ferns, leaves and trees that the human eye cannot see, the human brain cannot imagine, but only through the photographic medium can it be revealed. It is this unknowing revelation that is to come that partly draws me to photograph water. Every image is different, because the water is constantly moving and shifting in its flow pattern that it can never be predicted or photographed exactly the same ever again. Water can appear as long strands that fingers itself around each rock or log in its path. It could transform itself into touchable mounds of liquid clouds. A photograph of moving water gives a magical form to a living entity that has no stable form. I away's stand amazed at the sight of water. Photography is the only artistic medium that allows us to see the beautiful rhythmic dance of motion. Water is the tie that binds all the people and the fish together in this Klamath project."