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The French Lake Fish Ladder

September 25th 2014
  • It is not often one comes across a spiral staircase in the middle of a nature reserve, so when one does, one naturally might be a bit curious about why and how it got there. Suffice to say, this strange looking structure – located in Oklahoma’s inordinately spectacular Wichita Mountains (confusing, we know) – is no ordinary walkway.

    Built in the mid-1930’s this perplexing piece of planning was set up after the installation of French Lake’s dam, and was intended for one creature and one creature alone – the salmon.

    Named the ‘fish ladder’ this concrete corkscrew allowed for spawning salmon to ‘climb’ up and, in doing so, complete their epic homecoming – finally coming to rest in the tranquil rivers in which they were first born. From this spot, they would then be able to start the cycle of life once again.

    Unfortunately for the governmental bodies that put this ambitious plan into action, the salmon turned out to be a little bit more slippery than expected. Only after the sizable build was over (and a sum of around $30,000 had been spent) did these educated types realise that there were no salmon native to this area in the first place. Dam indeed.

    Despite this ever-so-slight miscalculation, the ladder remains an intriguing feature in an already outstanding state and, in spite of the lack of a certain fish, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers more than you could ever hope for in terms of fascinating fauna. As they say in Oklahoma, ‘You cain’t say no’ to that.

IMAGE CREDIT: Larry Smith