Chehalis River

Completing a critical wetland reserve, three decades in the making

Washington's Chehalis River Surge Plain is the largest, healthiest tidal surge plain in the state. Much of it is protected within a Natural Area Preserve, managed by Washington Department of Natural Resources. Western Rivers Conservancy helped conserve nearly all of the remaining unprotected lands within the surge plain by transferring them to WDNR for permanent protection. Photo by Nick Hall.

The Chehalis River surge plain is home to a wealth of fish and wildlife, including spring and fall Chinook, chum salmon, steelhead, river otter, beaver and the endemic Olympic mudminnow. It is especially important for coho salmon (pictured).

WRC's efforts on the Chehalis have conserved more than six miles of river frontage, including exceptional water-trail systems through Peel’s Slough, Blue Slough and Preachers Slough. These sloughs and channels provide rich habitat for fish and wildlife and are crucial to the healthy functioning of the Chehalis River, from its mouth to its headwaters. Photo by Nick Hall.

The forested wetlands of the Chehalis River Surge Plain support diverse wildlife, including black bear, deer, beaver, river otter (pictured) and a wide range of resident and migratory bird species. WRC's efforts have increased the amount of protected habitat within the surge plain by nearly 50 percent. Photo by Kitchin & Hurst/leesonphoto.

The surge plain is open to the public, and canoeing and kayaking are popular activities. WRC's efforts will improve recreational access for both paddlers and hikers alike. Photo by Nick Hall.

Nearly 80 species of birds have been observed within the Chehalis River Surge Plain, including osprey, bald eagle, belted kingfisher, black-headed grosbeak (pictured), pileated woodpecker and common merganser. All of them will benefit from WRC's efforts, which will ensure the long-term protection of crucial forest and wetland habitat. Photo by Kitchin & Hurst/leesonphoto.

In addition to protecting more than six miles of river and side-channel frontage, WRC's efforts facilitated conservation of extensive forest habitat, including stands Sitka spruce and western red cedar more than 200 years old. Here, children play at the base of an old-growth Sitka spruce, inside the park boundaries. Photo by Nick Hall.

Western Rivers Conservancy's efforts to conserve 1,469 acres of the Chehalis River surge plain will enhance recreational and educational activities within the park, which is managed by Washington Department of Natural Resources. Photo by Nick Hall.

Bird's eye view of a kayaker paddling through a slough inside the Chehalis River Surge Plain Natural Area Preserve. Photo by Nick Hall.

In 1989, the Washington Department of Natural Resources created the Chehalis River Surge Plain Natural Area Preserve to protect this important ecosystem. Yet, for almost 30 years, the preserve has been incomplete, with nearly 1,500 acres at the heart of it privately owned and unprotected. This changed when WRC helped conserve 1,469 acres of land in partnership with WDNR and Weyerhaeuser, completing the Natural Area Preserve. Photo by Nick Hall.