Sound Water Stewards are trained volunteers working in and around Island County for a healthy, sustainable Puget Sound environment through education, citizen science and stewardship.
2021 Arlington Stillaguamish Eagle Festival
The mouth of Stillaguamish River is a critically important complex ecosystem called an estuary where fresh and saltwater mix. The river carries nutrients downstream and the rising and falling tides create a rich habitat for juvenile salmon which experience the highest growth rates of their lives while in estuaries. Salmon hatch from eggs laid upstream then spend a critical stage of their development adapting from fresh to salt water and feeding in the near shore nursery grounds of the estuary where a detritus-based food web provides abundant prey.
Nutrient-rich estuaries are home to eelgrass, algae, wetland and marine plants, crustaceans, many invertebrates, fish and birds. The Stillaguamiish River braided delta provides prime habitat for migratory birds and lots of wildlife.
Where the Stillaguamish River empties into the Salish Sea at Port Susan Bay, three major major areas have undergone recent restoration: Leque Island, zis a ba (managed by Stillaguamish Tribe) and Port Susan Conservation Preserve (managed by The Nature Conservancy). Of these, only Leque is easily accessible to the public.
For the 2021 Eagle Festival, Sound Water Stewards present
- video – Salmon Life Cycle Video
- video – “Estuary Soup” (activity meant for kids of all ages)
- Slide Show / Recommended Trail Walk – Get up close and personal with an estuary when you walk the Leque Island estuary restoration trail at the mouth of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River just west of Stanwood
The Lives of Salmon
During pre-covid times, Elaine Chan taught children and adults about estuaries at special events at Camano Island State Parks. In this video, Elaine demonstrates a presentation which would normally engage the students as helpers sharing the props. Estuary Soup was first created by marine science educators at Padilla Bay Estuarine Research Center and has been adapted by educators around the globe, including Sound Water Stewards.
Walking the Trail at the Leque Estuary Restoration Project near Stanwood
Tips for the Leque Trail Walk:
- No left turns into or out of the Eide Road or the Davis Slough entrances
- Remember your Discover Pass (purchase online or at Bob’s Market in Stanwood, Cama Beach State Park Welcome Center on Camano, Cabella’s on Quil Ceda Blvd)
- Dress warmly fall, winter or spring; there is often a cold wind off the water.
- Note this Map to two public access points
- Check a tide app and notice if the tide is rising or falling, especially if you leave the trail (it is okay to leave the trail but it may be very muddy)
- When you arrive at the end of the trail, as you look out over the river, marsh and tide flats, imagine the estuary in pre-development times when indigenous people traveled up and down the rivers and coastal waterways in shovel nosed canoes and the estuary was rich with life.
About the Leque Site
- news article and aerial video about the restoration project
Learn more: Importance of Estuary Habitat Restoration to Salmon Recovery
- Lifeblood documentary produced by WDFW: 2 minute trailer and 20 minute documentary about salmon and estuaries
- Leque Island Restoration Project – located between Stanwood and Camano
- Leque Trail Walk – from Washington Trails Association
- Video on Stillaguamish Tribe’s zis a ba restoration project of estuary habitat across the Stillaguamish River from Leque Island at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River just south of Stanwood
- You Tube Videos about Salmon filmed by Stillaguamish Tribe
- Blue Carbon – Snohomish River Estuary – 5 minute YouTube video on how coastal wetlands mitigate climate change and reduce carbon pollution
- Fir Island Wildlife Unit – located north and west of Stanwood, Skagit River estuary restoration project
What is an Estuary?
- Port Susan Preserve is open by reservation during the Arlington Stillaguamish Eagle Festival
- What Is An Estuary? 5 min video from EPA
- Estuaries: Where the River Meets the Sea – 2 minute YouTube video from NOAA
- Estuaries and Salt Marshes in Puget Sound. The fascinating ecosytems of estuaries near Seattle – 10 minute video
- How Storm-water Is Threatening the Puget Sound’s Fragile Ecosystem – 5 minute YouTube video from The Nation in collaboration with Suquamish Tribe
- Forage Fish Matter video from Sound Action
- Forage Fish of the Salish Sea video produced by Friends of Skagit Beaches
- Island County Marine Resources Committee Forage Fish Survey
- Encyclopedia of Puget Sound on Forage Fish
If you enjoyed this, here’s more:
- In winter, find snow geese, tundra or trumpeter swans in the fields near Stanwood
- Buy this book to find more ways of Getting to the Water’s Edge on Whidbey and Camano Islands
- Send feedback or your own pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Learn about Intertidal Marine Life and play the EZ ID game