Trail of the Week: Kennedy Creek’s Salmon Trail offers peek at spawning chum

The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail is open Nov. 25-27.
The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail is open Nov. 25-27. chill@thenewstribune.com

Kennedy Creek

Hike description: The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail is a short, easy walk packed with opportunities to see spawning chum salmon.

The window to hike this trail, however, is small. The trail is open to the public Fridays-Sundays. An estimated 5,000 visitors use the trail each November. Interpretive signs and expert volunteers from the South Sound Salmon Enhancement Group are positioned along the path to help visitors understand what they are seeing.

More than 20,000 chum salmon journey up the stream each fall to spawn before they die. The shallow water makes the fish easy to spot. The tired and deteriorating fish sometimes splash. Females lay about 3,000-4,000 eggs in the riverbed gravel, and males fertilize them. But only a couple of eggs will survive to become adults that return to the stream.

The eggs and dead fish carcasses serve as food for more than 100 species of animals.

Chum and coho salmon, and steelhead and cutthroat trout can be found in Kennedy Creek.

The 1-mile Kennedy creek salmon trail is easy to negotiate. It is flat and has viewing areas. It is mostly ADA accessible, although large leaves on the trail can make it slippery on rainy days.

Visitors don’t need to walk the entire mile to find places to view splashing fish. There are 11 viewing stations along the paths.

Directions: From U.S. Highway 101 between Olympia and Shelton, turn west on Old Olympic Highway (near milepost 356). Drive three-quarters of a mile to a gravel road marked “Kennedy Creek.” Follow the road about a half mile to the trailhead.

Difficulty rating: 1 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).

Miles round trip: 1.

Elevation gain: Minimal.

Best time of the year: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday (Nov. 25)-Sunday.

Map: Posted at trail.

Pass: None. Donations accepted.

Also: While the trail is on private land and closes after the weekend, there are other salmon run nature trails in the area, including McLane Creek in the Olympia area and Tacoma’s Swan Creek. Dogs are not allowed at Kennedy Creek for the safety of the animals and protection of the salmon. The trail has been open to school groups and visitors in the fall for 16 years. The land is owned by Taylor Shellfish Farms, and the access road is owned by Green Diamond Resources. There are no geocaches on this trail, but there are several in the surrounding area. See geocaching.com for information.

Info: spsseg.org/education-outreach/kcst.

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497