Salmon Spawn at Maple Creek Reach

9-10-13

Three of the four species observed: Coho (schooling in the foreground), Sockeye, and Chinook (King). The nearby Pinks were not interested in posing for this shot.

Last summer, WLT purchased some land in Maple Falls from Mark Hanson, filling what had been a conspicuous gap in a string of holdings, and creating a contiguous preserve that now spans the length of the Maple Creek Reach on the North Fork of the Nooksack.

Last fall, one of WLT’s most ambitious habitat restoration projects got underway at the Maple Creek Reach Preserve. Derelict buildings were removed and the site replanted. Old fencing was torn out by volunteers (though more remains for a work party this fall, detailed here) and trees that had been previously planted by conservation partners were tended to.  Over the next few years, the exposed ditches in the fallow fields will be returned to their natural state as meandering channels. The neglected Christmas trees will be cut and used to provide the large woody debris fish use for shelter.  Hummocks will be planted with willows to encourage beaver, who will create the ponds and wetlands that act as Coho salmon nurseries and ensure adequate stream-flow in late summer when adult fish return to spawn. Thickets of native shrubs will be planted to shade the streams and provide habitat for resident and migratory birds.  A large field will be managed as a meadow that has already hosted the local elk herd.

Last month, WLT’s conservation staff were thrilled to report that four of the five Pacific salmon species could be observed in Maple Creek, often all sharing the same few cubic feet of water.  This event affirmed and fueled our long-range vision of a Reach-scale natural ecosystem where people can observe the dynamic web of life that can exist in Whatcom County’s riparian zones with mindful and enduring stewardship.

WLT is actively seeking supporters for the restoration of Maple Creek Reach, from blackberry warriors to leadership-level funders. This is a rare opportunity to get involved at the inception of a multi-generation project.