By the time a Chinook salmon travels the 850 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River, the fish has encountered predators, traveled through three states, traveled through four rivers, climbed up eight dams and avoided recreation traffic.
“The conditions are pretty hostile, and the odds are pretty horrible that they’re going to make it back after going through all that,” said Kris Millgate, outdoor journalist, author and owner of Tight Line Media.
Millgate knows the salmon route well. In the summer of 2020, during the pandemic, she followed the fish through Washington, Oregon and Idaho, interviewing different salmon stakeholders along the way. She drove 4,686 miles in a pickup truck with a camper, all alone. She captured 25 hours of footage and interviews for a documentary that premieres this week at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls.
The documentary is called “Ocean to Idaho.” The 26-minute film includes different viewpoints from fishermen, conservationists, farmers and more. Millgate hopes this film gives viewers perspective on the danger salmon are in. She says everyone wants salmon to survive and thrive, but they have differing opinions on how to make that happen. The film has no narration, which Millgate says is so the viewer can listen to the interviews untainted.
“I don’t want to come at you with a story that says, ‘this is what should happen.’ I don’t want to tell you how to think. I just want you to think,” she says. “I think it’s a well-rounded look at the issue so that you can hear all the perspectives involved and decide where you fall on the issue.”
Over the last year, Millgate has whittled down her footage and condensed the 25 hours into the 26 minutes that are now the documentary. While editing the video she started a companion project, a book called “My Place Among Fish.” The book is a personal look at what it took for her to create this bucket list project.
The book came out on Aug. 3 and is available to purchase. It’s Millgate’s second book after her successful “My Place Among Men” came out in 2019. She says the book was “totally unintentional.” After returning home from her journey, she started to pick through the footage and realized there was another story to tell. Her story.
“By January it was clear to me that there was more to the story than the fish and when I was on the road, I fell apart just like the fish do. I broke cameras, I had stitches, I had bruises, I had some really rough days and people were interested in that because they were home in the pandemic watching me fall apart solo on the road following a fish that was also falling apart,” she says. “So, I put the film as the highlight of a salmon’s journey and then everything that happened behind the camera, that happened to me, that’s what goes in the book.”
She made the decision to write the book in January and promised the publisher she would get the book ready so it could be released in August at the same time as the film. She would edit some footage of the documentary, then write some pages of the book in tandem.
You can be among the first to see the film on Thursday, Aug. 12 at the VIP Party and World Premiere at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls starting at 6 p.m. You can get more information about that here, along with when you can watch the film on Idaho Public Television.
If you’re interested in reading the book, you can order it here.