Bay County Park
Conserved in 2005
- 85 acres and half a mile of shoreline on Oakland Bay, northeast of Shelton near the Twin Rivers Ranch Preserve in Mason County.
- The property features salt marshes, mudflats, forested uplands, a salmon-bearing stream, and is the future site of a County park, one of the few Land Trust properties with public access.
- Oakland Bay County Park provides habitat for Bald Eagles, deer, great blue heron, crustaceans, countless shorebirds, raccoons, possibly bear, and certainly salmonids.
Thank you to the following partners:
- Mason County Parks
- Phyllis Bridge
- The Nature Conservancy
- Squaxin Island Tribe
- Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition
CLT Strategic Conservation Goals Achieved:
- Conserve wetlands, riparian areas, and associate upland forests.
- Conserve marine shorelines and estuaries.
From the Field: Salmon Sanctuary on Oakland Bay
Shelley Kirk Rudeen
(Issue 42, June 2005)
one of the far corners of Puget Sound, a creek flows cold and the
color of tea.It brings
a breath of cool air from the forest to tideflats shimmering in late
spring heat. This
estuary, where the fresh water of Malaney Creek mixes with Oakland
Bay’s salt water, is the centerpiece of a new conservation
acquisition northeast of Shelton. The acquisition protects three quarters of a mile of the
creek, forested estuary, eighty acres of forest and meadow, and two
thousand feet of forested marine shoreline on Oakland Bay.
years in the crafting – this project was a team effort between
Capitol Land Trust, Mason County, and the Salmon Recovery Funding
Board. The Squaxin
Island Tribe, the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, and
the Southwest Puget Sound Watershed Council also provided important
support and assistance. Capitol
Land Trust negotiated to purchase the land from longtime owner
Phyllis Birge with funds from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and
funding from Mason County. The
land is now owned by the people of Mason County while the Trust
holds a permanent conservation easement, allowing it to provide
stewardship and management of the land.
reason for all the fuss will become evident next autumn.
It will be raining then, the kind of rain that swells the
creek and sends its unique scent into the bay, signaling home
to chum and coho salmon returning from the northern Pacific Ocean.
The salmon will surge upstream to spawn in gravel washed by
cool, clear water. Cutthroat
trout and steelhead will hang in the riffles and pools, waiting for
the chance to snack on drifting eggs. Otters, mink, birds and other animals will feast on the
carcasses of spawned-out salmon. As they wander away from their meals, the animals will leave
their scat in the surrounding forest.
In this way, nutrients that the salmon brought from the ocean
will become available to Douglas fir, salal, and wild rose.
salmon eggs incubate through the winter, a lesser known story will
unfold. At high tide,
small “forage fish” – surf smelt and sand lance – will
deposit their tiny eggs in shallow water among sand and fine gravel
on the beach. The eggs
will hatch into larvae that drift among the plankton, gradually
growing and transforming into their adult forms.
These fish feed the masses: larval sand lance are a
significant part of the diet of juvenile salmon, while adult forms
of both fish nourish marine mammals, seabirds, and other fishes. This forested shoreline is important to forage fish and their
place in the food web because it does not have bulkheads. Bulkheads
tend to reflect the energy of waves back to the beach, scouring away
spring a new chapter opens in the story, as young salmon emerge from
the gravels of Malaney Creek. Coho
fry will stay in the creek for another year, while the chum move
downstream and into the bay. For
a few weeks they’ll drift with the tides – seeking deep water
when the tide is out and moving shoreward with the rising tide,
perhaps using the shadows of fallen trees to hide from herons and
kingfishers. As the tide
slips into patches of saltmarsh along the shore and the mouth of the
creek, the little chum will swim among pickleweed and arrowgrass,
feeding on microscopic organisms.
Soon they will be ready for their journey to the ocean.
health of Puget Sound depends on places like this where the natural
processes of forest, shoreline, and creek are allowed to unfold with
minimal interruption. It’s
the kind of place where life begins: you can see it in the
burgeoning spring growth of the forest, and in the arcing flight of
swallows and wood pewees hunting insects above the estuary for their
young broods. It’s
also a place where life comes full circle, as when the salmon return
to spawn and die. On
this day you can see it overhead, too, in the elegant patience of
vultures, wheeling in the blue.