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Pursuing Healthier Streams and Wetlands at Northwest Stream Center

| 09/23/2016 | Blog, Group Tours, Hiking, Seattle Northcountry, Views and Overlooks

In the Pacific Northwest, water is our lifeline. From the Cascade Mountains, hundreds of miles of glistening rivers and streams make their way to Puget Sound. Those waterways teem with fish that feed thousands of people and other creatures, and the waterways help ensure the nearby farmlands and forests receive the water they need to grow. I recently discovered a local waterway and quite by accident learned how essential it is to ensure riparian habitat is healthy in order for these other gifts of nature to stay healthy. 

McCollum Park, just off the Cascade Loop (from Everett, head south on I-5 to exit 186 for WA-96 E/128th St SW), features wetlands, woodlands, and nature trails alongside North Creek. North Creek appears to be a small creek, but drains approximately 30 square miles south of Everett and is quite a watershed. You would never guess that such a space exists in an urban area. Stepping onto the Forest Loop Trail, I crossed over North Creek and entered a woodland paradise. Even though this trail isn't too far off the interstate, I was astounded by the quietness. With the exception of the birds singing as they flitted through the tall cedar and Douglas fir trees, it was blessedly peaceful. A groomed trail and viewing benches, courtesy of nearby college students and the local Boy Scouts, made it easy for me to look around and enjoy this quiet, half-mile hike. Nothing beats the smell of cedar following an early morning rainstorm, and I found myself taking in the fresh scent. 

Upon completing the loop, I encountered a group of people entering the Northwest Stream Center (NWSC), a new regional teaching facility and headquarters for the Adopt A Stream Foundation opens to the public this fall. The centers primary focus is stream and wetland ecology and fish and wildlife habitat restoration. 

It is located on a 20-acre site that previously included a four-acre gravel parking lot that had been constructed on top of a wetland. Adopt A Stream Foundation has since restored three acres of wetland from that parking lot. I was amazed to learn of its history because the wetlands are so lush and healthy. The site also includes an amazing Trout Stream Exhibit with viewing windows where you can see trout, crawfish, sculpin and fresh water mussels! 

After enjoying the Trout Stream Exhibit, I walked past interpretive signs in North Creeks riparian zone and ventured over the Trout Stream Crossing Bridge onto a brand new half-mile Elevated Nature Trail; the trail is made of 100% recycled lumber and winds through a very beautiful and complex forest and wetland system. Along the way, I learned how a working wetland can cleanse a stream; how to identify plants and their uses by Native peoples; and the importance of such areas to fish, wildlife, and people. Beautiful signage along the way provides detailed information that will help people understand and care for the Pacific Northwest's water resources. 

As much as my family loves to play in and around Snohomish Countys wonderful waterways, we also know that it will take work to ensure future generations can enjoy them, too. The Northwest Stream Center will be open on a daily basis later this fall. However, there are a few dates in October where you can stop by an enjoy the site as well as some terrific shows: Killer Whale Tales on October 1, Salmon in the Forest on October 13, All About Bats on October 21, and Creature of the Black Lagoon on October 28.

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