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Nez Perce fishing weirs on the North Fork of the Clearwater River at Bruce's Eddy is the answer for Week 248 of Orofino History Trivia a special feature to celebrate the history and heritage of Clearwater Country.

Join in the discovery!

Monday: Lines deteremined timing

Tuesday: Similar to those at other locations

Wednesday: Constructed yearly

Thursday: Bruce's Eddy

Clearwater Historical Museum Director Bernice Pullen drew this diagram of the fishing weir from the description of Harry Wheeler.

In the book Salmon and the People: Fish and Fishing in Nez Perce Culture by Dan Landean and Allen Pinkham, Harry Wheeler explains how the Nez Perce from around Ahsahka would use the narrow part of the North Fork to build a weir.

There was a large rock formation that ascended into the river at Bruce's Eddy (now the location of Dworshak Dam). There was a stone that had three horizontal lines carved into it which was used as a gauge to determine when to start building the trap or weir. The lines were about six to eight inches apart and about six to eight inches long.

"When the water exposed the first line it was time to put poles fastened crosswise onto the river. The legs of these cross-pieces were anchored and wedged firmly with rocks. A row of these extended across the river: long poles were laid from the crotch of one to the crotch of the next above the surface, across the full width of the river. While these poles were being set into the water, others would cut short poles five or six feet long and would weave them together with a willow bark into panels, it would look like wicker work: loose enough to let water go through but tight enough to keep fish back.

"When the second line was exposed, it was time to put in the weaving. They would bring it down and unroll it. Others would bring more. Panels 5-10 feet long would be placed on the upper side of the cross-pieces that carried the long poles across the river. The top of the panels rested on the poles. The bottom was held down by rocks, and the force of the current helped to keep it in place. Soon this wicker panel extended the full width of the river. Big salmon would come up and that was as far as they could get.

"When the third line was exposed it was time to build the platforms and start fishing. By setting a pair of cross-pieces about six feet down stream from the wicker weaving and laying down a long pole between them, poles extending from the wicker panels to the long pole could be placed close enough to make a platform. Men would make several of these platforms and fish from them. Some would make the scaffold project to provide shade for the salmon. Five or six families would work together to make one of these scaffolds which was about as big as a bed. Two or three men fishing from these platforms might easily catch as many as 150 salmon in a day."

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Window on the Clearwater
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