In the first days of November, when the chum salmon return to the southern Puget Sound, another massive migration arrives at the mouth of Kennedy Creek. This one, however, arrives in yellow school buses. Tumbling out in galoshes and raincoats, visiting schoolchildren run up the half-mile long Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail, gaping at the spawning chum that return to the stream by the tens of thousands to spawn.
Only ten miles west of Olympia, Kennedy Creek is one of the most productive chum salmon spawning streams in all of Washington, with average fall runs topping 30,000 fish. Every November, over 5,000 visitors, including more than 2,500 local school children, visit the interpretive sites along the trail to witness this incredible spectacle of nature.
Western Rivers Conservancy now has the rare opportunity to acquire and protect nearly all of the Kennedy Creek stream corridor, from its Summit Lake headwaters in Capitol State Forest, to the mouth at Totten Inlet. In doing so, we can ensure that this unique stream stays healthy for salmon and remains a vibrant outdoor classroom for school communities throughout the south Puget Sound.
Our efforts at Kennedy Creek are crucial. Chum salmon once returned to Puget Sound by the millions. By the mid-20th century, runs in Kennedy Creek had been reduced to an average of 100 fish a year. Thanks to local recovery and conservation efforts, those numbers have been dramatically improved, and WRC’s acquisition will ensure this vital stream is forever protected and these gains are not lost.
Kennedy Creek also supports runs of coho and pink salmon, coastal and resident cutthroat trout and winter steelhead, as well as rich wildlife. Salmon carcasses provide important marine-derived nutrients to the surrounding riparian and estuarine ecosystems, including 120 wildlife species, from northern river otter and bobcat to red-tailed hawk.
The estuary at Kennedy Creek, which is protected within the Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve, provides a critical feeding area for more than 140 bird species, including shorebirds, migratory waterfowl and raptors. Bald eagle, marbled murrelet, peregrine falcon, purple martin, and black-bellied plover all depend upon the mudflats at Kennedy Creek.
By conserving Kennedy Creek, WRC will preserve not just a great salmon run, but an entire ecosystem that depends on the health of its fish. We will also ensure that future students can continue to learn the importance of salmon to the Puget Sound and the world, and the interconnection between forest and fish, shorebirds and shellfish.
Nov 17, 2016
Western Rivers Conservancy is heading to the river this Black Friday when we #OptOutside with REI and millions of others who've decided to skip the madness of the mall and hit the great outdoors. Our destination of choice, of course, is the sweet smelling, soul soothing river, where we'll hike, fish, birdwatch and maybe even do a little winter kayaking. We hope you'll do the same!
To help you decide where to go, here's an abbreviated Field Guide to WRC Rivers--places where we have acquired land to protect habitat and create and improve public river access for all! And if you like these rivers, support our efforts to do more on great rivers around the West.
See you on the river!