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It was my pleasure to lead the first SPAWN Creekwalk of the 2011-2012 coho salmon spawning season, and share coho stories with three troops of Girl Scouts and their families! Nothing is more satisfying to me than teaching children the wonderful story of our endangered coho salmon in Lagunitas Creek and connecting them with ways they can take action to help them.

Rain the evening before brought high hopes that coho would be jumping the Inkwells and spawning in Lagunitas Creek. Our group arrived at the Leo Cronin viewing area bathed in sunshine. The early overnight rains had soaked into the lush redwood forest floor but creek levels had barely risen. In the un-developed forest upstream of the permeable pavement parking lot, rainfall is filtered by the intact soil reaching the creek clear enough to see the gravel that will soon be incubating the next generation of coho.

“There’s a fish!” echoed across the trail. This is what we came to see! Girls young and old, and all the rest of us, crept up to the bank to peer into a deep pool surrounded by logs. There, darting in and out of the sunlight, was a steelhead almost a foot long. While not the magnificent coho we were hoping to see, this young salmon, who is likely living in this pool throughout the year, was a joy to discover.

On our walk back, we spotted over six species of mushrooms that had freshly sprouted, identified many species of trees and shrubs native to Lagunitas Creek, and I shared many stories about the life history and conservation challenges of our endangered coho salmon. A new generation of salmon conservation activists was born!

After each individual Girl Scout correctly answered a question I asked about coho salmon, I has the pleasure of awarding them their “Save the Salmon” merit badge. I think I was just as proud as they were!