Fish Wheel: Churning up some history
My recent viewing of a nicely...

My recent viewing of a nicely made fish wheel model brought up the opportunity to reflect on the beauty of simplicity and natural mechanics.

Europeans who came over for...

Europeans who came over for the gold rush took note of the effectiveness of a wheel placed in the right spot on the river.

The fish wheel is still used c...

The fish wheel is still used commercially on the Yukon river today; but in a much more controlled, sustainable manner.

The natives have used various versions of the fish wheel for a very long time; allowing them to ensure enough food was caught for the village for the winter and to keep the sled dogs fed as well. At first glance the fish wheel doesn't seem overly impressive, just an awkward looking contraption of wood and netting. The fish wheel is designed to churn naturally with the river's current, dipping into the water, scooping fish, and sliding them gently out and off to the holding area as it comes out of the water.

By the 1890's the fish wheel method of catch was being widely employed on the Columbia river and by the mid 1920's had exhausted or collapsed fish populations in certain areas. While commercial fishing uses have been banned or drastically reduced, modern day conservationists have recognized the fish wheel for it's ability to allow them to capture fish, examine and tag them, and release them back into the river unharmed.