Background: A coho salmon will try to spend its first
year of life in a wetland or beaver pond near where it hatched.
If it can find suitable rearing habitat, it will reside there
for a little over a year before heading out to sea. The better
the salmon's rearing habitat, the faster it will grow. And the
bigger it is when it heads out to open water, the better its
chance of survival in the open ocean. A couple of years later
when it comes time for salmon to return to their natal spawning
grounds, the creeks that sent out the fattest and healthiest
smolts will see the heaviest adult returns. This is one of the
main reasons why one creek in a spawning season may have so
many salmon that a person could almost walk across the creek
on their backs, while another is almost devoid of returning
Problem: Because of its drainage basin area's characteristics,
Beaver Pond Creek should be prime coho spawning and rearing
habitat. Its drainage area has almost three miles of spawning
habitat connected to approximately 35 acres of high quality
wetland rearing habitat. Fish usage of this habitat has been
surveyed by our department for the last several years and we
have found consistent under-utilization. While other nearby
creeks with similar drainage basins had hundreds of returning
spawners, in Beaver Pond Creek we would find only a handful,
and in some years none at all.
problem with Beaver Pond Creek was at its mouth. It empties
into Pilchuck Creek over a sandstone dome formation that spreads
the creek's water out into a wide, shallow, sheetflow. Depending
on rainfall and river stage, this sheetflow could be as shallow
as ¾ of an inch in depth, and spread out in a fan as
wide as 30 feet. The elevation difference between Beaver Pond
Creek's streambed and the surface of its trunk stream could
be as much as six feet. Unless Pilchuck Creek is at flood stage,
a returning salmon would have a very difficult time swimming
or jumping over the sandstone dome from the trunk stream to
the tributary creek.
Beaver Pond Creek has not supported a robust native population
of coho, due to this unreliable accessibility. Suppose, for
example, that a spawning season for particular year enjoys a
timely floodstage on Pilchuck Creek that allows spawner access
to the creek. These spawners would reproduce, and their offspring
would head out to sea to return to their natal stream three
years later. This second generation of spawner hopefuls would
hold in Pilchuck Creek below Beaver Pond Creek's mouth and wait
for a flood event that could help them over the sandstone dome.
Without another floodstage event, these spawner hopefuls wouldn't
be able to get back into their natal spawning grounds and the
run's residence in the creek would be broken with that generation.
It's likely that because of the sporadic spawner access over
the sandstone dome Beaver Pond Creek has been alternately extirpated
and recolonized several times over the past several decades.
Solution: In February of 2003, a work crew from the Indian
Ridge Correctional facility carved fish ladder step-pools into
the solid rock of the sandstone dome at the mouth of Beaver
Pond Creek. The step-pools' design was taken from Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife standard fish passage structure
drawings and adapted to the specific contours of the sandstone
dome by the work crew. We are extremely pleased with the results
of their efforts and predict that spawners will be able to access
the Beaver Pond Creek spawning and rearing habitat in all but
the most extremely low-water years.
2002 the Natural Resouces department found no coho salmon, but
thus far in the 2003 autumn spawning season, we have have documented
the return of at least 13 coho in Beaver Pond Creek.