PORT ANGELES — Guided walks along Ennis Creek are available by appointment starting today.
The free walks will focus on lower Ennis Creek near U.S. Highway 101 and can include opportunities to see some areas where habitat has been improved as well as those still needing restoration, said Robbie Mantooth, co-founder with her husband Jim Mantooth of Friends of Ennis Creek.
The group is sponsoring the walks as the its first activity after reorganizing earlier this fall, she said.
“The newly expanded Friends group decided the best way to encourage understanding and actions to benefit fish habitat in Ennis Creek, as well as in other streams, is through helping people see the great contrasts restoration work makes,” Robbie said.
“Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal members and Fisheries Habitat Biologist/Manager Mike McHenry have made significant habitat improvements on the conservation easement we established with North Olympic Land Trust. We see more salmon in spawning gravels created by strategic placement of logs and boulders.”
In addition to coho salmon, Ennis Creek hosts cutthroat trout and endangered steelhead, she said.
McHenry told Friends participants at a recent meeting that some parts of the creek are confined artificially, resulting in loss of gravel salmon need for spawning, especially on the former Rayonier mill site and on some other areas north of Highway 101.
The habitat biologist and a counterpart Rayonier staff member led planning for Ennis Creek restoration on the mill site. Even before that work is completed, he said it is important for property owners along the stream to do everything possible to improve fish habitat.
The habitat program has contributed to stream restoration in the Elwha River as well as many other smaller streams, he said. Logs are used not only to slow water down to benefit spawning gravels but also to help young fish have places to grow and be safe from predators.
The tribe contributes resources for improving habitat on Ennis Creek as an important part of its history and its treaty rights, Robbie said. An ancient Klallam village was located at the mouth of Ennis Creek.
Snowfields above 6,000 feet elevation in Olympic National Park help maintain the stream temperatures beneficial to salmon and steelhead.
Much of Ennis Creek is within the park and lands administered by the Department of Natural Resources, reducing impacts from development.
It enters Port Angeles Harbor from the former Rayonier mill site, where the state Department of Ecology is coordinating hazardous waste cleanup.
In recent decades, studies of Ennis Creek have described the 8.65-mile-long stream as having the greatest potential among those in the Port Angeles urban area, Robbie said.
The State Department of Transportation is designing a replacement for its fish passage under Highway 101, estimated to cost more than $18 million and be completed by 2023.
“It’s an exciting time to learn what we can do as individuals and through governments and other organizations to help the fish while other plans are in the works,” Robbie Mantooth said.
Appointments for stream walks are available through [email protected] or calling 360-808-3139, she said.
“Volunteers, as well as professionals, are helping so we can provide as many opportunities as possible to fit people’s schedules.”