Maple Creek Reach

A Legacy of Restoration

A few minutes past the town of Maple Falls and just off of Highway 542 sits Maple Creek Reach. Named for the creek that meanders through the property, this 111-acre property is a testament to the power of restoration. Maple Creek Reach’s story started in 2003 when Whatcom Land Trust acquired the first 78-acres of what is now Maple Creek Reach, which was donated by the Washington State Department of Transportation as damage mitigation after they had damaged salmon habitat upstream. Neighbor Gary Gehling had already done some planting along Maple Creek in the hopes of conserving salmon habitat in the river. In 2010 another 12-acres was purchased and the last piece of the puzzle was acquired soon after in 2012, finally completing a contiguous corridor of protected land in the area.

Before its acquisition by the Land Trust this wetland area had been leveled flat and used for raising cows and growing hay, as well as cultivating a small stand of Christmas trees. The creeks natural meander paths had been straightened and turned into ditches, exposed to the sunlight. The first issue was access, the only way to get to the western side of the property was a small bridge. In 2014 a larger bridge was installed to facilitate easier access and future restoration work. After that the ditches were returned to their natural meandering states, and large mounds were created in a process called ‘de-leveling’ in order to return the area to its natural forested wetland state. The stand of Christmas trees was used to install large woody debris in the river, creating the shaded pools salmon need to spawn. Several work parties have been held to plant shrubs and trees on the property, and work will continue on.

Pink Salmon at Maple Creek Reach

These conservation efforts have had great results. Bear, coyote, eagles, and even cougar have been spotted on the property. Beavers are active along the creek, building dams that provide year round salmon habitat. All five species of Pacific Salmon use these waters as spawning grounds. Walking along the property now through stands of trees and shrubs it’s hard to picture it as a flat, empty field. Recently the Land Trust hosted a tour of the property for Whatcom Water Week. A group of about 15 trekked through fields of tall grass and along terraces of deep, clear, beaver pools, guided by a naturalist and Land Trust staff. They were hoping to see the first round of salmon in the river. When they reached the spawning grounds six or seven Pink salmon splashed and tussled with each other in the shadow the of weeds and bushes along the creek bank, the first of many to come this year.

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