New interpretive trail tells the story of Twisp Ponds
By Ann McCreary
Not far from downtown, the Twisp Ponds site is a peaceful and shady spot that provides habitat for salmon and other fish, as well as a place for humans to explore and learn.
To expand those learning opportunities, a new interpretive trail has been created, with signage and a booklet developed this month.
The trail meanders through the Twisp Ponds property, along streams and ponds that provide summer and winter habitat and a place to spawn for seven species of fish.
The new booklet, available at a kiosk at the entrance to the Twisp Ponds, provides an overview and history of the site and a map of the interpretive trail. The stations along the trail provide information about natural features of the area, such as stream habitat, cottonwoods, beavers, water quality, and floodplains and side channels.
The interpretive markers also explain programs conducted at the ponds, including fish rearing, riparian restoration, Watershed Watchers school programs, fish monitoring, and a native plant nursery.
The Twisp Ponds complex on Twisp River Road is owned by Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation (MSRF), which purchased the property in 2002 to protect the old homestead site from residential development and to restore salmon and wildlife habitat.
A series of channels and ponds was created and connected to the Twisp River to benefit recovery of endangered spring Chinook salmon and threatened steelhead and bull trout. The complex has grown to 37 acres on both sides of the Twisp River.
Chris Johnson, MSRF executive director, said engaging the public in projects like Twisp Ponds, developed largely with public funding, is an important objective of these kinds of habitat restoration programs.
“There were two philosophies of the conservation movement in the 1960s and ’70s when I first became involved,” Johnson said. “One is to put a chain link fence around it and keep the public out.
“The other is to open it up and get people invested in the property. There is a lot of public involvement and public funding [in fish habitat restoration] and we want to make sure …we are making the site available. The more successful we are in getting the message out, the more people adopt these properties.”
An informational kiosk is also being developed at the Twisp Ponds parking area. Johnson said information at the kiosk will inform visitors about wildlife and plants unique to the site.
The kiosk will also inform people of other habitat restoration and public education sites developed by MSRF and other agencies in the Methow watershed, including a trail at the North Village in Winthrop, informational sites at the Winthrop Barn and the Tawlks-Foster Suspension Bridge in Mazama, and salmon habitat work on the Methow and Chewuch rivers.
When the Twisp Ponds property was purchased, it was largely vegetated by grasses. Over the past 12 years it has been planted with more than 2,500 trees and shrubs to create a healthy riparian habitat for fish and wildlife, said Rob Crandall, who coordinates the Watershed Watchers program.
Many of the trees and shrubs have been planted by students in the Watershed Watchers program, which brings school groups to the Twisp Ponds each fall and spring to learn about watershed ecology. Students, teachers and parent volunteers spend a day at the site, where they are taught by local watershed scientists, and usually treated to a juggling demonstration by Crandall and his brother John.
Art in nature
The daylong field trips also engage students in art, Crandall said. Students sketch or paint with watercolors on site, and they can view public art installed around the site.
Johnson said a partnership with Methow Arts has helped bring sculptures to the ponds. Three public art pieces have been installed at the Twisp Ponds, including a sculpture by Dan Brown at the entrance to the site, a cast aluminum heron by Cordi Blackburn in one of the ponds, and a totem carved by Bruce Morrison in a tree along the trail. Another piece, in cast aluminum by Steve Love, is being completed.
Visitors will also encounter several rusted steel fish stationed along the trail. The images, created by Barry Stromberger and Dan Brown, were cut out of old cars that were dumped along banks of the Methow River to prevent erosion.
Real fish that inhabit the waters of the Twisp Ponds include the federally protected species (spring Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout) as well as coho salmon, mountain whitefish, bridgelip sucker and longnose dace. Each spring the Yakama Nation releases 60,000 to 90,000 young hatchery-born coho salmon in the Twisp Ponds for reintroduction into the Methow River, Crandall said.
Coho were once the most abundant salmon in the Methow, but over-fishing and a historic dam at the mouth of the Methow River eradicated them in the early 20th century, according to the interpretive guide. The coho spend about six weeks in the ponds before beginning their 650-mile journey to the Pacific Ocean.
The interpretive trail is about a mile long and takes 20 to 25 minutes to walk, Crandall said. It is hoped that it will eventually connect to the non-motorized community trail that is under development by the town of Twisp, he said.