About the North Creek Wetlands
The campus shared by UW Bothell and Cascadia Community College includes the 58-acre wetland that ranks among the largest floodplain restorations in the Pacific Northwest. The land was purchased in 1995 for $16.9 million. Work on the project began in 1998 with construction of a new stream channel system that returned North Creek to a more natural configuration. Subsequent planting of native species of bushes, flowers, and trees along with active monitoring of the site are recreating a forest similar to what would have existed generations ago. A rich diversity of wildlife has returned to the area.
- 58 acres of restored wetlands encompasses lower North Creek, which is a salmon bearing stream
- Combined wetlands budget of more than $145,000 per year
- Two full-time gardeners plus hourly labor in wetlands each day
- 5,300 hours of active labor spent in wetlands each year
- Plants and trees continually added to the wetlands
- Non-native plants continually removed from wetlands
- In March 2008, Salmon-Safe designated the co-located campus of University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia Community College as the first certified campus in Washington State. As such, the campus is one of the first urban Washington sites to achieve Salmon-Safe certification. It is considered one of the best urban restored wetlands in the United States by the Department of Ecology and Army Corp of Engineers.
History of the Wetlands
Before European settlement, the lowland portion of the campus site consisted of a complex array of channels, small backwater lakes and depressions that were part of the junction environment where North Creek flowed into "Squawk Slough" (now the Sammamish River). The floodplain would once have been primarily forested with some scrub-shrub and emergent communities. Dominant tree species would have been Western red cedar, Black cottonwood, Douglas fir, Big-leaf maple, and Red alder. By 1895, the site had been logged for the first time.
Maps from 1916 indicate that large portions of the North Creek channel system, including the reach that runs through the campus site, had been straightened and confined within artificial levees so that North Creek would serve as a flume for delivery of logs from upper portions of the North Creek watershed to Lake Washington mills. Following logging, and since about the 1930s, the site had been used for grazing or farming. To improve site conditions for farming, extensive drainage systems including ditches and tile drains were constructed by various owners in attempts to manage both groundwater and surface waters.
Development of the campus required the filling of approximately six acres of wetlands. The State of Washington made a commitment to environmental enhancement of the site that went beyond what was strictly necessary from a regulatory standpoint. With environmental enhancement as one of the stated goals of the project, the most logical and consistent approach to meeting the regulatory requirements was to restore the structure and functioning of the North Creek riverine ecosystem on the site. The planning team proposed that North Creek be reconnected to portions of its historical floodplain through creation of a new primary and secondary channel and restoration of approximately 58 acres of riverine and floodplain ecosystem. Final project approval was granted in June of 1998.
Restoration Development Over Time
Restorations of natural ecosystems take time. The native forests of the Puget Sound require hundreds of years to reach maturity. Initially, the restoration at UWB/CCC looked much like a clear-cut. Canopy closure of trees has taken about ten years. As of 2010, the site was beginning to look like an immature forest. It will take another 20 or 30 years before the restoration site begins to function fully as a self-sustaining ecosystem. While the restoration is maturing it is necessary to actively manage the site. Management requirements at the site were highest during the first three to five years and have gradually tapered off. Eventually, all that will be required is routine maintenance.
In addition to monitoring, routine maintenance is required to ensure the success of the restoration. For the first several years, maintenance included irrigation of newly planted areas and active weed control. Additional plantings were also required. Longer term maintenance includes ongoing weed and pest control, cleanup of trash, trail maintenance, and possible thinning.
Wetland Access Guidelines
The wetlands may be observed from the paved trails and boardwalk without prior permission. Access off of the paved trails and boardwalk into the Wetlands Restoration Area is strictly prohibited without prior permission from the UWB/CCC Wetlands Oversight Committee (WOC).
The UWB/CCC campus wetlands are an exciting and unique resource for education, research, and nature study. While the WOC will strive to maintain access for those purposes, the committee's foremost priority is the careful stewardship necessary to maintain the long-term ecological integrity of this site. Because the area is a sensitive wetlands environment in early stages of restoration, access must be limited and impacts carefully controlled.
For more detailed information about the wetlands' history or the restoration project, click here.