One of the best places to see chum salmon migrating upstream and to learn about their life cycle is the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail between Olympia and Shelton.
Each fall, an estimated 5,000 people come to the trail to watch as 20,000-40,000 chum make their final journey up the stream to spawn before dying.
When the adult salmon spawn, they can produce 30 million-60 million eggs each year. But it is a challenge for those eggs to survive and become adults. Almost 140 species depend on salmon as a food source, whether as eggs, juvenile fish or adults. A female salmon will lay about 3,000 eggs. Of those, only two or three will survive to become adults returning to the creek.
Several volunteer docents, trained by the South Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, will be stationed along the trail every weekend starting Saturday and running through the end of November. School groups can visit the trail weekdays.
I think that Kennedy Creek and other salmon run nature trails in the Puget Sound are gaining popularity each year because folks are seeking to educate and inform themselves about the reality of what we are dealing with.
Claire Williams, outreach coordinator for the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group
The 1-mile trail is almost entirely accessible under the American with Disabilities Act as it winds through riparian areas and second-growth lowland forest. There are interpretive signs along the trail, as well as viewing platforms for watching the chum.
“With record numbers of students visiting the trail and an unprecedented number of new and returning volunteers, this will be our biggest year yet at Kennedy Creek,” said Claire Williams, outreach coordinator for the salmon enhancement group.
“I think that Kennedy Creek and other salmon run nature trails in the Puget Sound are gaining popularity each year because folks are seeking to educate and inform themselves about the reality of what we are dealing with,” Williams said about the affects of climate change on places such as Kennedy Creek.
Now in its 16th year, Williams said the trail is an opportunity to share the message of how residents can help maintain local salmon runs.
“The momentum to restore and protect our salmon populations as well as our habitats has never been higher,” she said. “This tells me that our community is coming together in both the professional and recreational worlds to work towards providing a healthy Puget Sound for generations to come.”
20,000-40,000 The number of adult chum salmon that typically return to Kennedy Creek each fall.
Contributors: The land on which the trail runs is owned by Taylor Shellfish Farms. Green Diamond Resources owns and maintains the road. The Squaxin Island Tribe and other groups, including Olympia Federal Savings, have donated recently to help with trail operations. Members of a Navy Seabee unit constructed the trail and parking lot.
Note: Dogs are not allowed on the trail. Their presence near the creek can stress the salmon as they expend what energy they have left to spawn. Also, dogs who eat salmon carcasses can become ill.
Fundraiser: To help maintain the trail and operations, several organization combine to host “Chum, Chowder and Chocolate.” Visitors last year donated more than $1,400. This year’s event will be from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 12. Taylor Shellfish will provide Xinh’s chowder, while hot chocolate, tea and coffee also will be available. The suggested donation is $5 per bowl of chowder. A $35 donation will pay for 10 students to visit the trail.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends, Saturday through Nov. 27, plus Veteran’s Day and the day after Thanksgiving. The trail also is open weekdays for school groups that have made reservations.
Where: From U.S. Highway 101 about halfway between Olympia and Shelton, turn west at milepost 356 onto Old Olympic Highway. Go 0.75-miles to the turn-off to a gravel road signed “Kennedy Creek.” Go 0.5 mile on the gravel road to the parking area.
Cost: Free. Donations accepted.
Information: 360-412-0808, spsseg.org/education-outreach/kcst.