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IMAGE CREDIT: LARRY SMITH
  • The French Lake Fish Ladder

    It is not often you comes across a spiral staircase in the middle of a nature reserve, so when you do, it's natural to be a bit curious about why and how it got there. Suffice it to say, this strange looking structure — located in Oklahoma’s spectacular Wichita Mountains — is no ordinary walkway.

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

    Named the ʺfish ladder,ʺ this concrete corkscrew allowed 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 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 construction was over (and around $30,000 had been spent) did these educated types realize 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, ʺYou can’t say noʺ to that.

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