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As featured in the documentary, DamNation (Patagonia, 2014). A distillation of fourteen years of detailed observations, in this surprisingly engaging almanac, Spencer records a natural history teeming with fish, water, vegetation, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians, seasonal changes, and interesting events and stories. Spencer is a modern-day Thoreau, and the steelhead pool is his Walden Pond.
During his first summer, Spencer built a sheltered viewing platform, a place to sit with Sis and his notebook, and observe the denizens of the pool for months, and, finally, years on end. Shortly before setting up camp during his first season, Spencer cut the points off the hooks of all his steelhead flies, freeing himself to see more deeply the beauty of his surroundings. As the predatory urge faded, a kind of blindness went with it, and Spencer's eyes and mind became figurative hooks, enabling him to capture the stunning lives and behaviors of these charismatic wild creatures with an intimacy that has rarely been offered before.
Lee Spencer was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1950 and was raised in Minnesota. After being awarded a Master's in Anthropology in 1978 by the University of Oregon, he worked as a field archeologist for more than twenty years, mostly in the desert west and often excavating dry rock shelters. He has cast flies for steelhead on his river of choice, the North Umpqua, for the last thirty-five years and, in 1999, with his good dog, Sis, he began volunteering with The North Umpqua Foundation at Big Bend Pool.
"A Temporary Refuge succeeds on multiple levels. It effectively documents regional wildlife and the perilous annual migration of the wild fish. It puts the interaction between man and nature into important context, and shows why the wild population is so important, even as hatcheries breed more and more salmon. And it's also a meaningful memoir about a man and his dog who were devoted to helping protect part of our shared natural heritage, year after year. [...] This is strong nature writing – descriptive and thorough, and helped by Spencer's obvious devotion to his task."
– Foreword Reviews (starred review)
"From these pages flows the elusive beauty that compels the defense of wild rivers."
– Matt Stoecker, Ecologist and producer of the documentary DamNation (Patagonia, 2014)