Guided walks to Ennis Creek are being offered by appointment starting December 2. The free walks will focus on lower Ennis Creek, near Highway 101 and can include opportunities to see some areas where habitat has been improved as well as those still needing restoration.
Friends of Ennis Creek is sponsoring the walks as the group’s first activity after reorganizing earlier this fall, according to the organization’s founders, Jim and Robbie Mantooth.
“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 Mantooth 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.
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. The ancient Klallam village is depicted in murals at the Port Angeles City Pier alongside the Puget Sound Cooperative Colony, established in the late 19th century and an important part of the City’s early development. Both were 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 Olympic National 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 Washington State Department of Ecology is coordinating hazardous waste cleanup with estimated completion within 7 to 10 years.
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. 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. The City of Port Angeles has applied for funding to remedy other fish passage problems on East Ennis Creek Road.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 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.”