A Think-Disaster Kind of Day… When It Comes Down to Move Your Town or Drown

Gift of salmon totem pole at Taholah, WA

The ocean has provided sustenance to the Quinault Indians for thousands of years. This totem pole that Peggy and I found in the community of Taholah represents that bounty. But now both the community and salmon fishing are threatened by global warming.

The small town of Taholah located on the edge of the mighty Pacific has a plan. It’s going to move back from the rising ocean. Global warming is a reality for the self-governing Quinault Indian Nation encompassing some 316 square miles (819 square kilometers) on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Storm surges in 2014 and 2015 have inundated the lower part of the town where critical police, fire, education, and governing services for the nation are located. Moving will be a challenge, but it is one that has to be faced as ocean waters rise.

One can only wonder what cities like Los Angeles, New York and other major population centers located along the world’s oceans will do as they face similar problems.

Quinault River at Taholah, WA

The Quinault River empties into the Pacific Ocean at Taholah. A low seawall protects the community from the river and ocean, but it isn’t enough.

Taholah Memorial Park

A memorial park is one of the areas threatened by the rising water.

Thunderbird in Taholah, WA

We also found Thunderbird in the park.

Beaver totem pole at Ocean Shores Interpretive Center

Beaver, on the other hand, was hanging out at the Ocean Interpretive Center in Ocean Shores.

Peggy and I drove up to Taholah and checked out the town from where we were staying at Copalis Beach.  The area is rich in natural resources from both the forests and the ocean. Taholah sits on the edge of the Quinault River, which has provided a bounty of salmon to the natives for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. (The Quinault Indians believe that they have lived in the area from the beginning when Raven upended a clam shell and found humanity lurking underneath.) But even the salmon are facing the impacts of global warming. The glaciers that provided fresh, cold water to the Quinault are melting and severely impacting the salmon population with both warmer water and extensive silt.

Since hiking is limited on tribal lands, Peggy and I returned to Copalis and headed out to Griffith-Pride State Park for a walk. It was much flatter than the area around Taholah. My thoughts turned from global warming to tsunamis. The whole area from Copalis to Ocean shores could be wiped out in a big one. I couldn’t help but be a tad nervous. It was a think-disaster kind of day.

Wet boardwalk at Griffith-Pride State Park, WA

An interesting trail leads out to the ocean over the low sand dunes at Griffith-Pride State Park.

Douglas fir at Copalis Beach

It was wet along the way!

Old road through Griffiths-Pride State Park in Washington

At one time, the trail had been a road.

Half a rainbow at Griffith-Pride State Park in Copalis Beach, Washington

A half rainbow caught our attention. Clearing skies promised sunny weather. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy on disappearing trail in Griffiths-Pride State Park

Occasionally, the trail disappeared into brush!

Connor Creek and rainbow at Griffith-Pride State Park, WA

Eventually we came on to Connor Creek and found the other half of the rainbow.

Connor Creek at Surfcrest Condominiums

Connor Creek also flowed by where we were staying. More time would have found us kayaking it! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Looking out to sea at Copalis Beach, WA

The creek flowing into the ocean provided a perspective on just how flat Copalis Beach is. Crashing waves can be seen in the distance. It would take a lot of running to escape a Tsunami!

Sunset at the Quinault Casino

We had a tender prime rib that night at the Quinault Indian Casino in Ocean City, where we were treated to this sunset. It’s a fitting end for today’s post.


WEDNESDAY’S POST: A photographic essay from Scotland

FRIDAY’S POST: Back to blogging “MisAdventures.” The animal kingdom gets banned from my bed

MONDAY’S POST: The end of my series on the Northwest Coast of northern Oregon and central Washington



30 thoughts on “A Think-Disaster Kind of Day… When It Comes Down to Move Your Town or Drown

    • It was fun to find the rainbow behaving as it did, giving us two halves, AC!
      And scary is a very appropriate word for global warming. Something that I read just recently suggested that the melting ice caps are adding to the weight of the ocean pressing down on the ocean floor. Think potential earthquakes. The possible ramifications seem to go on and on. –Curt

  1. So glad you wrote this because you have a first-hand glimpse of something to come — a real rise in water. We inlanders only hear about this, so thanks for the pictures and history. As usual, though, I feel pretty useless when it comes to actually doing something about global warming. But I’m fascinated by those who have ideas and put them into motion. Good for them — they’re moving the totem poles, etc. onto safer (for now) ground.

    • Thanks, Rusha. And here’s to the folks who are ‘moving the totem poles,’ who have the courage and foresight to act now instead of paying a much higher price in the future. –Curt

    • I’d driven up the cost several times over the years, Peggy. But this is the first time I have stayed there for a week. Now I think I would like to return and backpack in Olympic National Park! And you are welcome. 🙂 –Curt

  2. I was recently talking with a like-minded woman (liberal, literary, spiritual but not religious) and she happened to mention that she thinks “global warming” is complete nonsense. And all I could do was stare at her in silence. I honestly did not expect that from her and was at a complete loss as to what to respond. So I said what I normally say when things start to veer in a different direction in a conversation “we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one.” Thanks for sharing this post Curt.

    • I can’t comprehend it, Sylvia. I understand denial, and I understand turning off the TV when you can’t stand to hear any more news for the moment, but when someone is faced with the overwhelming evidence there is for global warming and still denies it, my mind starts ‘a will not compute’ mantra. Even if people want to deny the degree of human complicity in what is happening, it is still happening. Thanks for your comment. –Curt

  3. I understand salmon is a religion for many of them. Thoroughly sacred, and so the loss devastates their culture and identity. Gorgeous pix, C. Love the seawall and rainbow. Happy new year, my friend.


    • Salmon meant survival for so many of the Native Americans who lived along rivers that fed into the Pacific Ocean of the Northwest, D. Not surprising that they considered it sacred!
      And Happy New Year back to you and your family D. And hugs… 🙂

  4. That looks like a fun trip you had so far. I’m hoping we’ll follow in your footsteps one of these days. Hopefully the village will be moved to find safety. I can’t help but wonder why it seems to be the folks who have contributed the least to this disaster seem to be the ones to suffer the most.

  5. Before moving home we lived in a region of England called South Holland, all of it is below sea level and protected by dykes and sea walls. It seemed to work rather well!

    Love the pine needles shot!

    • I suspect that’s the solution that some of the major cities may come up with, Andrew. Certainly Holland is an example… Now if we can just find the extra trillions to pull it off… Might be a lot cheaper to just abandon the areas and build elsewhere.
      Thanks on the pine needles. –Curt

  6. I had no idea about this community and applaud their forward thinking and adaptability as sad as ithe need for it is. Astounding photos and like Andrew the pine needle one really stands out.

  7. One of the communities in Louisiana that is facing the same thing is Isle de Jean Charles. A friend who has been involved with the community says it’s a little more complicated in that case, since subsidence is involved, too. The canals cut by oil and gas concerns have contributed to the problem, but whether the water is coming up or the land is going down, the result is the same.

    I’m more sanguine than some when it comes to the issue, partly because I’ve seen evidence of so many changes here in Texas, I can’t help but think some of this is part of a natural cycle larger than we can see. That’s not to deny the human role in degradation of the natural world; I lived here when you hardly could breath the air because of petro-chemical plants, and you didn’t dare eat a fish from these waters. Those days are gone. But back in the day, a great sea split the middle of what’s now the United States and Canada. It’s worth pondering.

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