News & Events

Chimacum Creek Restoration

Author: Selden McKee | 08/03/12

IllaheeChimacum Creek has been restored as a healthy thriving habitat for salmon and other wildlife thanks to the long-term efforts of many dedicated individuals and groups.

When a culvert washed out thirty years ago, the creek was ruined as a spawning ground for summer chum. “In 1983 no chum returned to the creek to spawn,” said Jac Entringer, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator for North Olympic Salmon Coalition. “But in 2010, over 1,200 chum that had been hatched in the creek returned to spawn.”

The plight of the endangered chum inspired the Jefferson Land Trust, Hood Canal Coordinating Council, NOSC, and over a dozen other non-profit and governmental agencies to unite as the Chumsortium in 2001 with the goal of securing and protecting land the creek runs through and restoring the habitat of the creek and its estuary. Since then, over 160 acres of the Chimacum Creek corridor have been put under some form of protected status.

This spring the JLT added another piece with the purchase of what is now called the Illahee Preserve, a 5-acre parcel close to the creek’s mouth. “This is a key piece both for the chum and the community,” said Sarah Spaeth, JLT Executive Director. “It is critical spawning habitat with good forest canopy and a healthy spawning ground. And now it will be forever preserved in its natural state.”

The piece was purchased with grants through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and Jefferson County Conservation Futures Fund.

The parcel is well situated for use as an educational setting, says NOSC”s Entringer. “We get students outside to see the salmon, to get their hands dirty, to smell and experience this environment. They learn about the salmon’s life cycle, and why over 137 species of plants and animals are dependent on the wild salmon.”

While summer chum spawn in the lower portion of Chimacum Creek, many other fish spawn in the upper levels. These include the fall chum, coho, steelhead, and cutthroat trout.

Because the summer chum use the lower two miles of the creek, the estuary at the mouth is also critical habitat for them. There they feed and grow to gain the strength to survive for years in the open ocean before returning to the same exact waters where they were spawned.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife owns and protects much of the creek corridor and estuary. The DFW has removed mills and other structures at the estuary, and Jefferson County and other organizations and volunteers are working to bring it back to its natural rich state.

A long-term restoration and preservation effort such as this is possible only with the support and involvement of the whole community of individuals and organizations working together, says Spaeth. “The story of Chimacum Creek is still evolving and there are more pieces to protect and more work to do.”

Jefferson Land Trust and NOSC seek volunteers for several restoration planting parties this spring. Join us for a chance to enjoy some of the special places along Chimacum Creek, and do a good turn for the salmon.