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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

November 13, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Chum and coho, and salmon docents too: weekends at Carkeek

The chum run is on at Carkeek Park and what a sight it is, as the fish make their way up Piper’s Creek to the applause of falling autumn leaves.

salmonrunLO1.jpg

Chum are returning home to Piper’s Creek at Carkeek Park.

Photo by Ken Lambert, the Seattle Times

Through Dec. 9, Salmon Stewards will be on hand at the park each Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to talk to visitors about the life cycle of the salmon. The volunteer stewards recorded more than 145 chum and 17 coho returned to the park as of last week.

The annual Pipers Creek Salmon Celebration will take place on Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be treats, warm drinks, music and kid activities, and hopefully, plenty of fish to see.

I was at the park recently, and the fish were a wonder, making their determined way upstream, right here in our midst, just outside the city. The sound of their tails splashing and sight of the males chasing around, vying for mates, and females digging their nests is arresting. The glowing red fish by the way are male coho.

Piper’s Creek is an embattled urban creek. The creation of the park in 1929 helped save its life, after all the virgin timber was stripped off the watershed, and the Great Northern Railroad built its line right across the estuary where the creek meets Puget Sound. For more on the history, here’s a good link.

The native runs died off in the creek, but salmon persist today thanks to gifts of hatchery fish and eggs from the Suquamish Tribe, and a program in which kids at 25 elementary school raise salmon eggs, later releasing salmon to an imprint pond at the park as part of the Salmon in the Classroom Program in cooperation with Seattle Public Utilities.

Volunteers started the program in 1980 as part of the Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project.

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