Thornton Creek AllianceIn Your Care!

Education and Outreach

The Thornton Creek Alliance is about more than just creek and watershed restoration.  We are focused on community information and participation.  A watershed's citizens can't benefit their environment unless they know about it.  TCA is active in that role, and its members are encouraged to help in...
  • Working with schools and a community college on watershed education
  • Participating in citizen advisory committees
  • Displays and information tables at various events
  • Household information packets
  • Open members' meetings with take-home materials and informational speakers!

Shoreline Parks Bond levy passes . Southwoods is saved! Thanks to all who helped get the word out. South Woods website

TCA_Workplan_2005-06.htm 2007-08 workplan will be available soon

A community gathering was held to celebrate the acquisition of a 2-acre property along Little Brook

Report Surface Water Pollution!
Help protect Seattle's water and wildlife by reporting surface water pollution. Seattle Public Utilities will send a surface water quality field inspector to investigate the problem and get it cleaned up.
Surface water
refers to rain that falls and carries pollutants along streets and into Seattle's creeks, lakes and Puget Sound.

Examples of pollutants to report so they can be cleaned up include:
    leaking automobiles
    concrete dumped on the street
    paint poured down a drain
Use Surface Water Pollution On-line Complaint Form or call the Surface Water Pollution Report Line at (206) 684-7587.
To make a report

SPU Creek Monitoring News, No. 10, June 30, 2004
Results of the 2004 spring spawning surveys
Results of the 2004 spring smolt trapping on Thornton and Longfellow Creeks
Results from fall 2003 creek macroinvertebrate sampling still have not arrived
Results of the 2004 spring spawning surveys: By Bill MacMillan of Washington Trout, under contract to SPU
THORNTON CREEK (entire system):
Live Adfluvial or Sea-Run Cutthroat *******... 224
Dead Adfluvial or Sea-Run Cutthroat *******.. 19 Live Resident Cutthroat Spawning with Adfluvials **. 2
Dead Resident Cutthroat ************... 5
Adfluvial or Sea-Run Cutthroat Redds *******. 506
Resident Cutthroat Redds ************. 22
First Adfluvial Cutthroat Spawning ********. December 23
Last Adfluvial Cutthroat Spawning ********. June 2
First Resident Cutthroat Spawning ********.. December 30
Last Resident Cutthroat Spawning ********... June 2
Live Steelhead ****************... 0
Live Adfluvial or Resident Rainbow ******** 1
Steelhead-Sized Redds *************.. 1
First Steelhead Spawning ************. April 6
Last Steelhead Spawning ************.. April 6
Coho Redds *****************... 0
Live Suckers *****************.. 269
Dead Suckers *****************. 6
First Sucker Entry ***************.. March 30
Last Sucker Entry ***************.. May 4
Dead Pacific Lamprey *************... 1

PIPER'S CREEK (entire system):
Live Sea-Run Cutthroat *************.. 4
Dead Sea-Run Cutthroat *************. 1
Sea-Run Cutthroat Redds ************... 23

Results of the 2004 spring smolt trapping on Thornton and Longfellow Creeks: By Joe Starstead, SPU Watershed Specialist
2004 was the fourth year that Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has operated smolt traps in Thornton and Longfellow creeks. Smolt traps are used to capture juvenile salmon migrating from their natal freshwater streams to saltwater estuaries. This project in conjunction with annual fall salmon spawning surveys is part of an ongoing effort to monitor salmon production and usage of these Seattle urban streams.
Materials and Methods:
SPU staff installed the smolt traps during the final week of April and the traps at both stream sites were completed on April 30th. The Thornton Creek trap was located approximately 1125 ft upstream of the confluence with Lake Washington, near the intersection of NE 93rd St and Sand Point Way NE. The Longfellow trap was located 25ft upstream of the SW Yancy St culvert near 26th Ave SW.
Each trap consists of a V-shaped weir to funnel fish to an intake pipe connected to a livebox. SPU staff checked the livebox daily. Salmon and trout collected were identified by species and the length of each fish was recorded. For all other fish species collected, the fish was identified by species if possible and tabulated. All fish were then released downstream of the traps.
Both traps were operational from April 30th through May 25th. In previous years, the installation and operation of the traps in Thornton and Longfellow creeks occurred during the first two weeks of May. This time period coincides with the peak outmigration of coho smolts from streams and rivers in the region. During the initial week of trap operation a significant number of Chinook smolts were found at the Thornton trap. The decision was made by SPU staff with guidance from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to keep the traps in for an extended period of time to collect enough data to estimate the Chinook production of Thornton Creek. An attempt was made to keep the Thornton trap operational until mid-June. However due a number of factors including the return of spawning peamouth on May 25th and a series of successive storm events, the Thornton trap had sustained significant damage and was removed on May 27th. The Longfellow trap was disconnected on May 27th and finally removed from the stream on June 9th.
To assist with the maintenance of each trap, volunteers were contacted. Volunteers assisted in the maintenance of the trap weirs to remove debris build-up during trap operation. Each trap was checked twice daily (morning and evening) by volunteers. SPU staff cleaned the traps during the afternoon after checking and emptying fish from the liveboxes.
During a couple of storm events, it was necessary to pull the screens for the Thornton Creek trap due to excessive debris buildup and relieve pressure of water backed up by the weir.
Results of the Thornton Creek smolt trap are presented below. Results include only fish collected from the livebox except for the Oriental weatherfish. Oriental weatherfish were only caught in the mesh of the weir panels and none were found in the livebox.

Thornton Creek:
Common Name -Scientific Name- # of Fish
Chinook salmon (smolt) Oncorhynchus tshawtscha 309
Coho salmon (smolt) Oncorhynchus kisutch 14
Rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss 2
Cutthroat trout (juvenile) Oncorhynchus clarki clarki 210
Cutthroat trout (adult) Oncorhynchus clarki clarki 8
Coarse-scale sucker Catostomus macrocheius 83
Lamprey - unidentified species Family: PETROMYZONTIDAE 6
Peamouth Mylocheilus caurinus 3
Sculpin - unidentified species Family: COTTIDAE 7
3-Spine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus 15
Longnose dace Rhinichthys cataractae 32
Sunfish - unidentified species Family: CENTRACHIDAE 3
Oriental weatherfish Misgurnus anguillicaudatus3

Total number of fishing days (Thornton Creek) = 25 days

Longfellow Creek: Common Name -Scientific Name -# of Fish
Coho salmon (smolt) Oncorhynchus tshawtscha 47
Cutthroat trout (adult) Oncorhynchus clarki clarki 1
Rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss 1
Sculpin - unidentified species Family: COTTIDAE 1
3-Spine Stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus 11

Total number of fishing days (Longfellow Creek) = 25 days

Each year this project has required significant labor and time to install, operate, and maintain the smolt traps. Sincere thanks to all those involved. Without the assistance of City staff and especially the incredible effort of the volunteers this project would not be possible.

Thornton Creek Volunteers
Mike Knezevich
Dave Rose
Sharon Paul
John Small
Marilee Henry

Longfellow Creek Volunteers
Bart Kale
Jeromy Adams
John Steedman

SPU Staff
Kevin McCracken
Albert Ponio
Laura Reed
Katherine Lynch
Ken Yocom
Scott Olmsted
Shanti Colwell
Clarke Thurmon

Longfellow Creek Happenings
Contact Sheryl Shapiro at 233-2046 or for information on the following:

Longfellow Creek Legacy Trail Map is now available to guide you on a three-mile stroll or shorter walks. Please contact Sheryl to request a copy and/or to schedule a tour of the sites for your group.

Longfellow Creek Watershed Council meets 1st Tuesday of the month. Longfellow Creek Stewards help with various restoration sites. Work parties 2nd and 3rd Saturdays and Committee meetings on 2nd Tuesday of the month.
Longfellow Creek also has a website:

Looking for a Long Term Commitment?
Creek sites in Thornton, Longfellow and Piper's Creek available for adoption now! Creek Site Stewards adopt and care for habitat plantings along a creek, monitor their sites, and have the opportunity to learn more about creek related topics through Site Steward workshops. Call Bob Spencer or call (206) 684-4163 about caring for a creek site near you as an adoptive Creek Steward.

For more info upcoming creek stewardship activities, please contact Bob Spencer, Creek Stewardship Program Coordinator, or 206-684-4163.

A useful website for all sorts of creek activities information:

North Seattle Community College Stewardship Plots
There is an ongoing need to tend plantings in the greenbelts, wetlands, and areas that impact these sensitive areas on the NSCC campus. Over the past five years there have been many trees and shrubs planted in locations outside the core landscaped campus. To keep these plants growing they need to be weeded at least once a year and, occasionally, watering is in order. Competing weeds such as blackberry, scotch broom, and reed canary grass need to be removed or at least kept at bay, until the preferred native plants can get established to hold their own against these "invader species."
NEEDED: folks who would take on a small section of the greenbelt and do weekly or monthly work in a specific area of our Sanctuary, wetlands or greenbelts. These mini work parties would last 2 or 3 hours, one to four times a month through the growing season, say March through October. Each group should be small, 3 to 6 people. Each group's Stewardship Plot, can be sized so the group is comfortable with the expected work goals.
E-mail Micheal Brokaw   or call   528-4597

INVASIVE ALERT By Cheryl Klinker
Volunteers have been battling Himalayan Blackberry, Bindweed, Japanese Knotweed, Purple Loosetrife, Holly, and Ivy, just to name a few invasive plants found in restoration sites across Seattle. Recently however, an invasive plant that has remained relatively unnoticeable in years past has burst on to the creek scene in a big way. It is an exotic called Policeman's helmet, also known by its latin name Impatiens glandulifera. It was native to Asia but seems to be spreading and making itself at home in the Seattle area. It stands three to five feet tall on succulent hollow stalks. It has pretty purple to pink flowers shaped like little helmets that bloom in late spring and summer, and like purple loosestrife, is so attractive, most people would not think of pulling it. In late fall, the seeds explode from the ripe seed pods and travel up to ten feet. It is found along stream corridors and in low wet areas, Thornton Creek not excluded. It is especially entrenched at Thornton Creek Park 2, Victory Creek Park, South fork of Thornton along Nathan Hale, and the Meadowbrook Flood Control pond. Our Stream stewards and volunteers should be on the lookout for it and remove it soon. Please, if you see this invasive in your yard, or in a neighbor's yard, remove it before it goes to seed this fall, or at least cut off all the flower heads. It will be one less invasive to contend with. If you have questions about this invasive, you can contact the King County Noxious Weed board at 296-0290

Wild salmon have been declining for over a century. As a result, there is a lot of debate about the value of investing in their recovery. One thing is certain, they are literally the energy that fuels an entire ecosystem including people as well as wildlife. Fortunately salmon have historically had a vast genetic diversity and an ability to adapt to dramatically changing habitats that have allowed them to survive for two million years. There are some other intriguing qualities about salmon that make them fascinating as well as enduring.
Salmon have an outer skin that is protected by a thick coating of mucus. This protective coating can be easily damaged when handled. Their skin coat actually changes color and markings as they move from one environment to another. As fry they have "parr marks" that help them blend in with gravel. When they get out to sea, their coats change to "counter shading" that helps them stay camouflaged in the open ocean where from beneath they appear light, but from above they appear dark. When they return to their stream habitats, they go through yet another change, that helps their spawning partners distinguish them. These vary between the Chinook, Coho, Pink, Sockeye, and Chum. Most of us are familiar with the Sockeye and its bright red sides contrasted by the dark green back.
Salmon have two sense organs that help them hear. One is a very, sensitive inner ear organ that detects sounds in combination with its swim bladder. The other is a line of pores running along each side of its body that detects low frequencies. They use these to detect food at a distance and then move in closer to visually identify it. They can swim up to fourteen miles per hour, which isn't very fast compared to many other fish species, but is plenty fast for stream environments. Anyone who has tried to view salmon in Thornton knows they can dash out of sight in a second. They avoid areas of bright light, not just because it usually indicates an open and unsafe exposure to predators, but also because their pupils are fairly large and don't change in size the way a human pupil does.
Salmon are very sensitive to changes in water temperature even though they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures between 42 degrees F and 77 degrees F. Their favorite temperature is about 55 degrees F. During summer, they gravitate to deep pools where colder water naturally settles to the bottom. This is also why trees and shrubs covering a stream with shade is so important. They also prefer water that has a lot of oxygen and is neutral, neither acidic nor basic. If the water has naturally dissolved calcium in it, this helps make heavy metals less toxic to salmon and all fish in our stream. If there are lots of phosphates and nitrogen from fertilizers running off into the stream, algae and some other plants grow too rapidly, consuming the dissolved oxygen the salmon need. They are also very sensitive to petroleum and heavy metals from parking lots and streets. Silt clogs the membranes in their gills and deprives oxygen from their developing eggs.
Salmon of one stock return to spawn in mass together. This has reduced the chance of genes from other stocks mixing in, and is partly responsible for runs that develop to specific conditions within their home streams. However, every stock lost to extinction is a loss of important genetic information, leaving remaining stocks with less that can help salmon survive as a whole. As we quicken the pace of change, they must struggle to keep step with us. The question remains whether they will be able to, and whether we can help mitigate that change through restoration of the habitats we have altered. (Sources: Salmon Facts by Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Publication No. OE96-91 and Field Guide to the pacific Salmon by the Adopt-a-Stream Foundation 1992)

Do you know how Thornton Creek got it's name?   Edith Thornton, in 1892, established a land claim where the Northgate Shopping Center is now located. The creek was named after her.
Before her claim, there was an 85 acre cranberry bog wetland, where the native peoples had a seasonal village while they harvested cranberries and other food from the bog.

Do you have a Salmon Friendly Garden? The ways we garden can make a real difference in whether our salmon have a healthy place to breed and perpetuate their species!
(Whether your garden is 2 feet or 2 miles from the nearest stream, lake or Puget Sound, it affects salmon. Everything that runs off your property into storm drains eventually washes through their habitat.)

Stream Care LeadershipThere is concern that there is not a Stream Care Leader for the Meadowbrook wetlands and creeklet. If you live in the vicinity of the Meadowbrook area and want to help with the maintenance of the new plantings there as well as invasive plant removal or be included in future workparties, call Bob Spencer at Seattle Public Utilities at 206-684-4163.

What exactly is a watershed?!  The Center for Watershed Protection has some great information

Learn about the different types of salmon and their needs. The "Did you know?" section is especially good!

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