Redfish Lake was so named because of the bright red colour of these endangered salmon. Standing at its shores, it was easy to imagine the lake densely packed with sockeye, their shimmering scales reflecting in the water’s surface like rose petals. We were there too late in time, and too early in the season, for any slight evidence of this vision, but the migration journey of Snake River salmon is truly a remarkable, though ominous tale.

Navigating close to 900 miles (~1450 km) of waterways inland from the Pacific rim to elevations above 6,000 feet (~1820 meters), the Snake River salmon travel farther and climb higher than any other salmon on earth. This one-of-a-kind story needed to be told with images.

At 6,547 feet (~1,984 m), near the base of the serrated Sawtooth Mountains, the glacier-fed Redfish Lake remains one of the highest salmon spawning habitats on the planet. Enveloped by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), a wild and remote landscape comprising roughly 756,000 acres (~305,940 hectares), including the 217,088 acre (87,850 hectares) Sawtooth Wilderness Area, it is also one of the most protected salmon spawning habitats left. Add adjoining aquatic highways such as the Salmon River, the Middle and East Forks of the Salmon River, Bear Valley Creek, and Marsh Creek, among dozens of other tributaries, and Idaho presents a platter of some of the most ideal salmon spawning habitat in the lower 48 US states.

“Look around you. We’re standing in the middle of the largest block of wilderness left in the lower 48. All of this is protected. All of it. And it always will be. This right here is Noah’s Ark for salmon. But it’s up to us to make sure they make it here,” noted Tom Stuart, a Save Our Wild Salmon board member, atop Nip and Tuck lookout near Stanley, Idaho.

The issue is getting wild salmon to return. Dams now prevent this migratory feat from happening.

This portfolio highlights the salmon spawning habitat in Idaho, while examining the people connected to the sockeye and chinook wild salmon, during a 10-day Tripods in the Mud (TIM) assignment I completed with collaboration from Save Our Wild Salmon.

Tripods in the Mud is an initiative of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) that helps partner professional photographers with conservation organizations for the creation of visual materials on a specific region or issue.