Canoe journey adds bit of science

Four hand-carved canoes carrying Tulalip tribal members will set out on the annual Coast Salish Canoe Journey next month.

When they do, it’s likely that at least one of the canoes will be outfitted with a $20,000 water-quality testing system, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS is partnering with the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council on the project. Geologists will fit five canoes from tribes throughout the region with water-quality testing systems. Each canoe will take water samples continuously along its route to Cowichan, B.C., where this year’s canoe journey will end.

The USGS announced the program at the Coast Salish Gathering in March, which was held on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. There, leaders of the Alaskan watershed council told tribal leaders that canoes — and ancient tribal knowledge of the environment — are perfect for the project.

Motorized boats disrupt the water and could alter the water samples. Canoes move slowly and don’t add any toxins to the water.

“Canoes are ideal,” said Jon Waterhouse, director of the council.

A similar project was conducted in Alaska last year. July’s project will be the first of its kind for the Puget Sound region, Waterhouse said.

The data will be used to create maps of the region, with detailed information from water tests taken simultaneously along hundreds of points.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or

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