Chimacum Creek Watershed

A community comes together to protect an ancient spiritual site and bring salmon, local waters and agriculture back to life.

A Bird’s-Eye View

Green Winged Teal. Photo by Stephen Cunliffe.

Green Winged Teal. Photo by Stephen Cunliffe.

The east and west forks of Chimacum Creek flow through Beaver Valley and Center Valley, home to many of Jefferson County’s oldest family farms and prime agricultural land. It is also traditional territory for the area’s S’Klallam tribes. The iconic Tamanowas Rock stands here, a spiritual site for more than 10,000 years.

The Preservation Story

In the early 1980s, a culvert under Irondale Road washed out, filling lower Chimacum Creek with so much sediment that summer chum were decimated completely. Ten years after that, plans for a housing development threatened to destroy Tamanowas Rock. In both instances, the local community joined forces to protect and restore these special places.

The Chimacum Creek Watershed is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when a community comes together. Chimacum is a microcosm of our work, where community partnerships and conservation successes and opportunities are connecting and integrating the landscape all the way up the watershed, from the tidelands to the timberlands.

A sacred site protected forever

Port Gamble elder Gene Jones and the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe took the lead in organizing the protection of Tamanowas Rock, working for over a decade to acquire and protect the lands around it. When the piece of land on which the Rock sits was put up for sale in 2009, Jefferson Land Trust negotiated a lower price and secured a loan from the Bullitt Foundation to buy the property, giving the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe and Washington State Parks time to raise funds for a permanent purchase. Years of engagement and collaboration with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, local investors, Washington State Parks, and the Jefferson County Conservation Futures Fund ultimately resulted in the protection of an area with tremendous historical, cultural, spiritual and ecological significance. As of 2012, Tamanowas Rock and the surrounding forest, wetlands and open space are permanently protected by a conservation easement under the ownership of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe.

Bringing back the salmon

Once completely wiped out in Chimacum Creek, summer chum have returned. This amazing recovery is due in part to the work of the Chumsortium Collaborative, a coalition of local conservation organizations founded in part by Jefferson Land Trust to lead salmon protection and restoration work. The Chumsortium now works together on salmon projects throughout east Jefferson County. Their work on Chimacum Creek is considered one of the region’s most successful salmon recovery efforts.

Creating neighborhood green spaces and outdoor classrooms

Preserves along lower Chimacum Creek, such as Illahee, have become neighborhood green spaces and outdoor classrooms where local residents, school children and visitors to the area have helped to plant trees and remove invasive plants, and come to appreciate the natural riches in their own backyard. At Illahee Preserve, we have constructed a trail to the creek where visitors can watch salmon close up.

A local agricultural revival

Though our Working Lands initiative, we assist local farmers who want to protect the conservation value of their land, such as at historic Chimacum Dairy and neighboring Glendale and Red Dog Farms. We are also moving in exciting new directions, looking beyond land conservation to broader economic issues that impact the agricultural vitality of the region, including housing, markets, policy and new partnerships. We are collaborating with farmers, the North Olympic Peninsula Natural Resource Conservation and Development Council, local and state housing organizations, Jefferson County and others to explore the potential for clustered, affordable farmworker housing on portions of strategic farm properties, with the remainder of the land permanently protected for agriculture and salmon habitat.

“I believe the agricultural and socio-economic renaissance we are experiencing in Chimacum is directly due to the work of Jefferson Land Trust and its generous donations of time and money. The Land Trust has helped build a stable foundation from which great things are rising.”

– Rob Story, General Manager of the Chimacum Corner Farmstand