(NFR) Is there poison oak in the WA high desert?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by junebug41, Mar 14, 2007.

  1. junebug41 Junior Dave Monti fan

    Posts: 371
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    After a long hike in the high desert of the Columbia basin this past weekend, I noticed some itchy water blistering between my fingers. This has now spread somewhat, much like poison ivy or oak would. I had plenty of experience with PI growing up back east, but have never had poison oak, to my knowledge.

    Any of you botanical types or veteran desert explorers care to take a guess as to what this is?

  2. salmonbelly New Member

    Posts: 2
    Kirkland, Washington
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Quite possible. I have never seen it there, but know it does occur in the Columbia River Gorge, a few spots in the San Juans and Seward Park of all places.
  3. BFK Member

    Posts: 332
    North Sound, Wash.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Probably poison oak is the answer...I've seen plenty of it on the east side, but I can't say definitely that it's in the basin...
  4. Jim Jones flytosser

    Posts: 575
    Woodinville, WA
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    I know there is poison oak in and around the Methow Valley so it wouldn't surprise me to see it spread across the eastern range. Nasty stuff.

    Jim Jones
  5. Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

    Posts: 2,569
    Quesnel, BC
    Ratings: +323 / 0
    I never saw it once growing up in Cheney.
  6. bigtj Member

    Posts: 280
    Victoria, BC
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    Here is the distribution of Poison Oak in Washington:


    A little more searching on the web would probably nail it down closer. Poison Oak doesn't do well in areas with low precip, so in general you don't find it in a true "desert" (places with less than 10 inches of rain a year). However, in riparian areas at lower elevation i.e. stream areas that gets say 15 inches a year you can find it all over the place. To make matters worse, this time of year it's hard to see because the plants generally lose their foilage in the winter time.
  7. LT Member

    Posts: 528
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    I've been brutallized by it walking up and down the Spokane River before I knew what it was. It seemed to spread as you reported.

    Never seen it in the Basin but like the previous poster said, very possibly could be in the riparian areas.
  8. jeffw Member

    Posts: 138
    Spokane, WA.
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    Hi LT,

    All I have ever seen along the Spokane River is actually poison ivy (T. rydbergii). But it is thick!! A lot of years ago, a friend and I were climbing the rocks at Minnehaha on the river. He's handling the belay and as I go up, he's piling the rope right onto a rather large patch of the stuff (we were top-roped). Needless to say, he paid for his mistake!

  9. Keith Hixson Active Member

    Posts: 1,507
    College Place, Washington
    Ratings: +55 / 0
  10. Flyn'dutchman Member

    Posts: 459
    Wenatchee, WA
    Ratings: +3 / 0
    It is most definitely present there. Many of the draws that have a little seep will support it. The launch area at Dry Falls used to have quite a bit growing.
  11. WT Member

    Posts: 772
    Seattle, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +8 / 0
    Oak, Ivy, Sumac, whatever you want to call it the stuff is all over the place out there. All over.
  12. Keith Hixson Active Member

    Posts: 1,507
    College Place, Washington
    Ratings: +55 / 0
    I have never had a rash from that stuff. I guess I'm not allergic to them. My cousin is! When we went into the woods as kids, he was covered with a rash. I can pick up the stuff and never suffer. I understand that not everyone is allergic to poison oak, ivy, sumac, etc., evidently I have a natural immunity to the stuff.

  13. Keith Hixson Active Member

    Posts: 1,507
    College Place, Washington
    Ratings: +55 / 0
  14. Loteck Joe Over The Hill Gang Member

    Posts: 266
    Liberty Lake, WA.
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    My wife told me that when she was a kid, she had a friend who broke her arm pretty seriously. I believe this happened in the Grangeville or Kooskia area of northern Idaho. Anyway, after the the cast came off the arm they were outside playing and came across a patch of poison oak. Her friend claimed to be immune to the stuff and to prove it she rubbed it on her newly uncast arm. Long story short, she wound up hospitalized with a life threatening infection. I'm guessing like bees stings and histamines, your immunity can grow week with each exposure.
  15. nhturner New Member

    Posts: 3
    New Paltz, NY
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Best not to count on "natural immunity." I believe people become more sensitive with each exposure. I used to pull poison ivy up with my bare hands here on my home property. No problem until I did have a problem, really horrible. Stay away is my advice.
  16. junebug41 Junior Dave Monti fan

    Posts: 371
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Thanks for some excellent info, folks. I still don't know exactly what it is, but I know this... it sucks. I noticed yesterday that I've even got a few of these blisters inside one nostril!

    Allright, bring on the nosepicking jokes... I swear -- I was just scratching it! It was outside the nostril! (Hopefully a few of you get the Seinfeld reference).
  17. FFK Member

    Posts: 142
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    hahah, one time me and my freind were hanging down by the spoke throwing rocks into the rapids and such, when i looked over my freind was shredding a plant i looked a little closer and relized that it was poison oak, that was when i was nine, hes still not aloud to come over.
  18. Snake tryin' not to get too comfortable

    Posts: 621
    between the mountains and the sound
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    The symptoms you describe are consistent with poison oak/ivy exposure, and I've seen both on the east (dry) side of the the state, but almost always in the spring, after snowmelt, which again is consistent with your history of exposure.

    You don't become "immune" (in the classical sense of immunity) to urushiol, the compound in poison oak sap that causes a hypersensitivity reaction. Some people have very low number of lymphocytes (white blood cells/WBCs) that respond to it, so it takes higher levels of exposure to trigger the reaction. In the case of a recent injury that is healing (a broken arm) there will be a lot of WBCs in the area, and you increase the chance of having some that will respond to it. Or if you're exposed to it at a very young age, you might actually 'delete' the white blood cells that can directly respond to it, much the same way that autoreactive WBCs are deleted during immune maturation, and that can prevent a reaction ('immunity').

    Sage wisdom, and scientifically correct.

    Here's a good site for a detailed discussion: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ww0802.htm