Ah the Vedder! There are folks on this board who can talk about the Vedder in detail.
The river I was referring to was the Cowlitz, once a magnificent river that must have been the equal of the great northern steelhead rivers before several dams truncated the great runs of salmon and steelhead to a largely hatchery driven facimile albeit the original strains are loosely perpetuated in the hatchery system. There are still many wild fish in the system with much free spawning in the mainstem, branches and tributaries but for the most part these fish have been drastically modified by Mayfield, Riffe and other giant dams.
These steelhead once made their way up to the gravel moraines that spill from the sides of the Cowlitz towers on the Mt. Rainier peak's fringe. Now they do not get any futher than the first barrier dam.
Once again as a sportsman I have battled many of the Cowlitz steelhead over the years and they are an impressive breed for one that has had to survive conversion into rearing ponds, but I have never visited that river without some contemplation on what she must have been like before the adulteration of dams and hatcheries.
Like the Vedder, many cringe at the sound of the name Cowlitz. In certain areas the concentration of anglers is literally shoulder to shoulder. These areas are the result of staging hatchery fish in the thousands concentrated in a single area, a situation created by man. Amazingly, the rest of the river is reasonably populated with anglers and very productive.
Looking beyond the situation that we have created, the river is an amazing, robust, big river that in another context would be considered one of the legendary rivers of our time, had we not messed it up. Still it kicks out incredible numbers of fish as if to defy all the abuse. More than any other in the state in fact. You can't blame the river for her current state, she does her part to produce. It's likely that she will never run free from the headwaters again, sadly.
I hear fom Sean that the Elwha project is going to be moving ahead soon...