Wild Salmon Return To South Bay Waterways After Extensive Cleanup

Matt Bigler
December 12, 2018 - 1:33 pm

Wild Chinook salmon have begun swimming through the streams of Silicon Valley again after volunteers removed large amounts of garbage from the clogged creeks. And all of that litter has inspired some unique art.

There's a different kind of commute happening beneath the traffic of HIghways 17 and 87. Chinook salmon, which were once thought to be extinct in the area, are regularly spotted in the Los Gatos Creek by fishermen and wildlife enthusiasts. 

"I think it's awesome. I think it's wonderful that they can actually come back and spawn. We need that," said fisherman Chris Cecconi who lives nearby. "It's something that's been missing for a long time."

Their return has been made possible largely due to the cleanup work of the South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition. Volunteers with the group have plumbed an estimated 237 tons of trash from the Guadalupe River Watershed, according to Steve Holmes, the group's founder. 

"It can be very frustrating, but the prize of getting healthy creeks can be achieved," said Holmes. 

Volunteers who have removed 237 tons of trash from the waterways in the South Bay have turned the garbage into art. There’s 1) a shoe made of old balls, 2) hypodermic needles in the shape of an egret and 3) a beaver made from cigarette butts, while 4) shows some of the garbage removed by South Bay Clean Creek Coalition volunteers. Wild chinook salmon have returned to the Los Gatos Creeks in larger number since the cleanup began several years ago. The photos are courtesy of the South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition.

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Much of the litter comes from homeless camps, according Holmes, who's asked officials to increase their patrols along the waterway. Volunteers have turned the discarded items into artwork, such as a shoe made from old balls, a beaver fashioned out of cigarette butts and hypodermic needles in the shape of an egret. 

Now with a clearer pathway, the salmon, which have been as large as 3-feet-long, run upstream to spawn. 

"It was breathtaking to sort of watch them fly up the stream," said Holmes.