What do you see in this photo? A winter scene of leafless trees with an understory of…well, not much. Welcome to the mostly restored Sandy River Delta, 1,500 acres of wild deciduous forest located at the entrance of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. The Delta is also a popular place, designated as the largest off-leash dog park in the Portland Metropolitan Area. Somehow, this land of conservation and recreation works in harmony as portions of the Delta are off limits to the public and a 1/3 of the land recently became an island when a small dam was removed, allowing the Sandy River the option to flow into a brand new re-opened channel.

Please look again at the photograph. Invisible to the eye are 130,000 newly planted native trees and shrubs, while a mile away at a newly re-connected (to the Columbia River) Delta wetland, 40,000 plants were lovingly placed into the ground. The Sandy River Delta may be the largest active deciduous forest restoration project in the country.

Along with the efforts of hundreds of volunteers who are transforming a landscape, we now hear the echo of drumbeats growing stronger as Native American Tradition Keepers are beginning to tell their ancient story to local school children, who are visiting the Delta for the first time. The First People’s tales pay homage to salmon, the roots of wapato, and the basket-yielding fronds of cattails, while instilling hope for what once was, and can be again when land is healed.

Just out of view from the photograph are pictures of tomorrow…when the entire Delta resembles the scene that Lewis & Clark experienced…of birds covering the entire sky, and the former school kids now the new Stewards celebrating the Delta’s restoration through song and interpretation of the newest story called: the return of the condor. ~