Maple Creek Reach Restoration (with video)

The Story of Maple Creek Reach Restoration

Maple Creek Reach from Carl Franz on Vimeo.

Twenty-eight miles east of Bellingham on Hwy 542 is the town of Maple Falls. It’s situated on Maple Creek and is named after the waterfalls found in the nearby Whatcom County park on which Whatcom Land Trust holds a conservation easement. Just south of Maple Falls,  Maple Creek feeds into the North Fork of the Nooksack. Like most creeks and rivers, Maple Creek’s natural habit is to fan out into several channels as it hits flat land, then meander across the historic floodplain before meeting up with the river, creating a fan-shaped forested wetland riddled with pools and small channels.  This area along the Nooksack where the creek and its associated wetlands has created a distinctive ecosystem is known as the Maple Creek Reach (a “reach” being a stretch of river).















Many years ago, this wetland was cleared, ditched and and leveled for raising dairy cows, and growing hay and a few stands of Christmas trees. The many meandering channels that used to wind among the trees and ferns and shrubs became a few straight ditches, exposed to the elements. Over the past decade, WLT has acquired the former alluvial fan of Maple Creek,  filling in the final chunk of the preserve in the summer of 2012. Now we’d like to restore the land to it’s natural state. From this:


To this:


We have good reason to envision this transformation. On a small portion of the preserve near the mouth of the creek, the ecosystem remains largely intact, demonstrating the potential.  Beaver ponds store water and house these trout…


…and ensure that stream flows remain adequate for the salmon species that spawn in late summer:

Fish 5

Bear, coyotes, eagles, otters and bobcats have  been observed hunting along the lower creek.  Staff have observed migratory song birds, resident raptors, wading birds and water fowl on the preserve.  WLT plans to expand this functioning ecosystem that currently exists on just a small portion of the preserve to encompass the entire 110-acre reach of the river. The multi-stage restoration plan began last fall.  Derelict buildings were removed and the site replanted. An old fence was torn out by volunteers 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.

For thirty years, WLT has focused on protecting the unique lands of Whatcom County. As we begin our next 30 years, we hope that our Maple Creek Reach project will exemplify WLT’s desire to bring a three-pronged approach to local conservation: Land Protection, Habitat Restoration and Community Engagement.  We hope that this project will inspire you to join us at an exciting “before” stage of a transformation that will result in an “after” teeming with life.

Please donate through our Network For Good account or send a check to PO Box 6131 Bellingham WA 98227 to support the conservation and restoration of Whatcom County’s natural assets. 



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