Kayaking and Surveying

In the spring of 2010, Harmsen was hired by Snohomish County Public Utility District to help with some Salmon Habitat restoration on the Sultan River.  I spent a good month or more on the project, topographically mapping out certain areas of the river and the land surrounding these areas.  We located the river edges, creeks, river overflow pockets, ground elevations, bridges, and walking paths within the project areas. 

I was asked to bring my Kayak to speed up the process of mapping the river and creeks where it was too deep or too fast to walk in.   We had a plan to use a boat for the job, but schedules conflicted so we took a different approach.  

A few weeks prior to this job I located parts of the Skagit River in my kayak.  That was very scary.  I located the toe of the river and a few survey shots away from the toe of slope.  I tried to get some shots in the middle of the river but the current was way too fast.  I would stick the fiberglass rod in the water and the kayak would get tipsy.  I made a judgment call not to continue.  I always wore neoprene waders, and a P.F.D. (Personal Floatation Device) just to be safe.  Sometimes that is not safe enough.  With under current at that stage of flowing water, it can kill you.  The Skagit River was flowing real fast and the water was real high.  

Back at the Sultan River, I was locating the thalweg, toe of slope, and we also located some grid elevations in certain parts of the river.  The locating of the river was pretty easy because of the practice I had prior to this job.  But it was still difficult; depending on where we were for the day.  Packing the kayak in to the job site was difficult in itself.  Then being in the water working, paddling up and down stream, and across the channel was very tiring.  Getting the kayak back to the H&AI van was a “cool” experience. We decided to meet down stream at the Sultan Park where the Skykomish River meets the Sultan River.  My first two trips down the river were awesome.  There were ducks swimming around me, bald eagles in the trees and a hobo camp on the east shore. 

I was working with Craig Roesler one day up stream locating the river and I decided to go meet him at the park.  Kayaking down the river about a quarter of a mile up stream from my previous trips down the river I got into the rapids I just located.  When all hell broke loose.  I turned the kayak to avoid a rock and hit a smaller rock just under the water; it turned my kayak sideways and it filled with water.  I quickly got out and tried to dump it out, but it just kept filling up with water.  It took me twenty minutes to drag it to shore and dump it out.  I continued my journey and all was good.  I was tired, so I let the river take me most of the way without paddling. 

Shawn Miller, Field Surveyor