Longtime residents of the South Sound know September is often the nicest month of the year, weatherwise. Sunny days, cool temperatures and the arrival of fall colors make a great incentive to get outdoors.
Local event planners must have had those attributes in mind when they sat down to plan their nature-based education and conservation calendars. What attracted them to Sept. 29, however, is a bit of a mystery. But looking at the calendar, it just might be one of the busiest days of the year for outdoors events.
It starts with National Public Lands Day, with volunteer projects planned across the region. But there also are events such as the Nisqually Watershed Festival at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and the Donkey Creek Chum Festival in Gig Harbor.
Below we preview some of the events so you can plan, but we’ll leave to you the decision as to where to go.
NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY
The intent of the day is to create a sense of stewardship and educate the public about the importance of natural resources. Agencies and local groups host volunteer events nationwide to get people outdoors and help some of our natural treasures.
More than 170,000 volunteers are expected to take part this year at more than 2,000 events in the nation’s largest effort to improve America’s public lands.
Last year’s efforts resulted in building an estimated 1,500 miles of trails; planting an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants; removing an estimated 500 tons of trash from recreation sites; and contributing an estimated $17 million through volunteer services to improve public lands.
FREE ENTRANCE DAY
As part of National Public Lands Day, a number of federal and state agencies are waiving entrance fees on Saturday. That means it will be free to enter places like Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks.
The U.S. Forest Service also is waiving fees on Saturday, meaning entrance to Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument also will be free.
Admission also will be free to state parks like Kopachuck, Tolmie, Millersylvania, Dash Point, Manchester and Flaming Geyser.
NISQUALLY WATERSHED FESTIVAL
The 23rd annual event celebrates the rich cultural and natural heritage of the Nisqually River watershed with music, food, guided walks, educational displays and more. The event takes place from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Among the programs will be presentations on the first climbers on Mount Rainier, salmon in the Nisqually River and learning outdoors. There also will be tours to the Nisqually Reach Nature Center. All festival and refuge parking for the day will be at River Ridge High School, 320 River Ridge Dr. SE, Lacey, off Martin Way, at little more than two miles from the refuge. A free shuttle will run from River Ridge beginning at 7 a.m.
MILLERSYLVANIA STATE PARK AUTUMN WALK
This Capital Volkssport Club event features 5K and 10K walks through the park, which is about 10 miles south of Olympia. The walk takes participants on trails through old-growth cedar and fir, and along the shore of Deep Lake. Participants also can look at the old log buildings, constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps almost entirely by hand. Because the event coincides with National Public Lands Day, entrance to the park is free, and no Discover Pass is required.
DONKEY CREEK CHUM FESTIVAL
This sixth annual Gig Harbor event will take place from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The venue has changed because of work being done at Donkey Creek Park; this year’s festival will be at Skansie Brothers Park. The festival will include information booths, a Web of Life costume parade, “Paint Your Own Salmon” T-shirts, a salmon maze, touch tanks and storytelling.
The Gig Harbor Commercial Fishermen’s Club has incubated salmon eggs at Donkey Creek since 1972, releasing more than 1 million fry into the bay each year. Every fall, mature salmon find their way from the open sea back to Austin Estuary and into Donkey Creek to spawn. Environmental groups and fish enhancement advocates developed the festival to promote a better understanding of and improve the conditions for salmon and watersheds.
OLYMPIA CLEAN UP
Join other community members and the Olympia Downtown Association for this event, running from 8:30 a.m.-noon. Participants should meet behind the Olympia Press Building, 115 State Ave. NE, Olympia. Participants will be able to enjoy a free lunch afterwards. Sign up by Friday.
Information: 360-357-8948, downtownolympia.com/about/cleanup.
FAMILY NATURE WALK
Join the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust for a naturalist-led walk with your family and learn about the animals, plants and history of Tiger Mountain. The 11/2-mile hike through a second-growth forest will encourage family members to use all of their senses as well as ask the question “Are there tigers in Tiger Mountain State Forest?” The hike is on the Issaquah side of Tiger Mountain. The cost is $10 a person or $20 a family. Register at mtsgreenway.org, 206-524-1665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ELWHA DISCOVERY WALK
Saturday and Sept. 30 are the last opportunities to take part in this free, ranger-led walk to explore the former Lake Aldwell lakebed, exposed by the removal of the Elwha Dam. Participants get to see how the Elwha River has reshaped the terrain, including shifting sediments, reawakening plants and stumps from massive trees logged a century ago. Meet at the parking lot at the end of Lake Aldwell Road. Walks start at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The sixth annual festival, sponsored by Olympic Resource Management, will be in Port Gamble to celebrate the past, present and future of the state’s forest resources. It features a lumberjack show, wood-carving show, wildlife and nature exhibits, and the chance to hike forest trails in the area.
OLD MILL DAYS
Seabeck holds it own celebration of the forest industry with this festival that runs Friday-Sept. 30. Events include chain saw races, speed-carving competitions and the new “Kitsap’s Toughest Timberman” competition. The three-day Northwest Chainsaw Carving Competition Invitational includes 10 of the best carvers in the world. General admission is $8 for adults, $5 for youth (ages 6-17) and free for children 5 and younger.
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