The Walla Walla River Mural began as a drawing on a paper napkin during lunch. Next, I began a series of hikes, sketchbook in hand, up the South Fork of the Walla Walla River (located in eastern Oregon) to gather visual information for the eventual mural.
The mural is funded by grants from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) and the Milton-Freewater Community Foundation. The OWEB grant is administered by the Walla Walla Basin Watershed Council.
The mural is painted on a concrete wall located in Marie Dorion Park, Milton-Freewater, Oregon. The completed mural is 60 feet by 5.5 to 6 feet high. It depicts a riparian zone of the Walla Walla River, including a "cut-away" view of the river to show Spring Chinook Salmon, Steelhead, and Bull Trout.
Click Entire View to see the mural in full (and then scroll left to right to view entire mural.) Return to this page to view mural details below.
Starting the mural, I free-hand the general placement of the composition elements.
Using white chalk, I mark the general location of fish in the water (below.) One of several pipe openings in the wall is visible next to the fish's tail. Once satisfied with the chalk profile, I establish the form with diluted paint as shown below.
CLICK image to view completed fish
Spring Chinook Salmon spawn in the Walla Walla River. The fish are darker during this final phase of their life cycle. Here, a female stirs the gravel bottom of the stream, creating what is called a redd, where she will spawn her eggs.
A male swims close to dispense sperm and fertilize the eggs.
Newly hatched fish are called Sac Fry; The reddish bulge under their bellies is the remaining yolk sack, which continues to nourish them at this earliest phase of life.
Chinook in the Smolt phase of life, when they begin migrating to the Pacific Ocean. They are developing the characteristic spots on their backs.
Chinook aren't the only fish to return to the Walla Walla River to spawn. Here, Steelhead Trout jump the rapids enroute to their spawning beds. Unlike the Chinook, Steelhead return to the Pacific Ocean after spawning.
Once spawning is done, the Chinook have completed their life cycle and die. Their decaying bodies return nutrients to stream and river ecological systems. In this detail, look in the foreground water for the Dragonfly Larva.
Spring Chinook Salmon were recently re-introduced in the Walla Walla River by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
to view more details from the Walla Walla River Mural.
A pestle stone rests among the river rock in the shallow water near the spawning Spring Chinook Salmon. Pestle stones are oblong rocks that have been modified by human use. They are considered cultural artifacts.