From Stories to Signs - Columbia Land Trust
Columbia Land Trust installs interpretive signs along the lower Klickitat Haul Road that celebrates the iconic watershed

One of the longest undammed rivers in Washington state, the Klickitat River supports thriving forests, woodlands, and grasslands, and hundreds of wildlife species including salmon and steelheadIt offers important opportunities in forestry, ranching, and recreation, and is rich in history and culture of the Klickitat people.   

This fall, Columbia Land Trust installed interpretive signs along the lower Klickitat Haul Road that celebrates the watershed and our nearly twentyyear effort to restore the river’s access to eight miles of its historic floodplain in partnership with the Yakama Nation. 

The signs were designed by Cassandra Thompson of Ocelot Creative with support from a team of reviewers including partners, staff, and volunteers.    

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“These signs are stories that help connect people with the rationale behind the project,” said Lindsay Cornelius, Natural Area Manager for the Land Trust. “To see the site from a different perspective than they may otherwise have seen it.  People can also learn about the proactive measures they can take to help continue the recovery process.”  

This summer, Columbia Land Trust completed the nearly 11,000acre Klickitat Canyon Conservation area upstream of the haul road restoration corridor, connecting the restoration corridor and the Klickitat Wildlife Area through which the restoration corridor passes with critical migratory fish and wildlife habitat upstream. The forested canyon and surrounding area are the ancestral lands of the Yakama people, a rugged and scenic landscape of great ecological and cultural significance.  

“Over a twenty-year project period, many people shared stories with us,” said Cornelius. “We had so much we wanted to share about the history and the river’s ecology and restoration process.” 

These interpretive signs provide an opportunity in the space of just a few minutes to connect visitors to a story that spans thousands of years. The story of the haul road can be told from many perspectives: from indigenous peoples whose lives are organized around the seasonal offerings of the river and forests, to Klickitat residents who remember riding the train up the corridor on a rail car to fish, to the sawmill that thrived and burned and thrived again before closing in the mid 1990’sto the juvenile fish observed in recently reconnected side channels, to the fishermen casting into pools buried for the bulk of the previous centuryto the hunters, hikers, and rafters, the plant communities along the bank, the stream channels unburied, the creeks reconnectedthe contractors and staff who operated the excavators and planted the trees. The stories are endless.  

There are so many different people, plants, and animals interacting with this river, and who have throughout history, these signs don’t do the depth and richness of that history justice,” said Cornelius. “I think the way we honor the past is to step thoughtfully into the future, with good stewardship, open minds, and willing hands.” 

To learn more about the project and its significance, please view our Haul Road Restoration Brochure. The road is closed to all access during periods of high fire risk. If you can’t make it out to see the interpretive signs in person, you can view a digital version here

Columbia Land Trust is grateful for funding support from the Salmon Recovery Funding BoardBonneville Power AdministrationLindbald-National Geographic fund, L.P. Brown Foundation, and generous supporters like you. We hope you have an opportunity to visit the haul road!