McLane Creek

Local Streams

Currently, Stream Team volunteers collect insects from 18 Thurston County creeks every summer. The creeks run through Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and Thurston County; each is a unique watershed with differing land use and water quality issues. Look for a different creek description in each of the quarterly Stream Team News until all 18 are featured!

McLane Creek

In late October the waters begin to rise in McLane Creek. Soon after, the wild run of chum salmon begin their upstream voyage to their spawning grounds in the creek and its major tributaries, Swift and Perkins Creeks. The creek originates in the forests of the Black Hills and flows 14.5 miles to Mud Bay, which is located at the southern end of Eld Inlet. The McLane Creek Nature Trail, located in Capitol Forest, is currently preserved as a public nature trail and provides excellent views of the chum salmon as they are spawning from mid-November through mid-December. A beaver pond complex located along the trail provides excellent food and habitat for juvenile coho salmon, migrating birds, rough-skinned newt and many other birds, amphibians and mammals.

Local Streams

Land Use

McLane Creek and its surrounding watershed are home to more than the majestic chum salmon. The 11.7 square mile watershed has historically been used by humans for forestry and agriculture purposes and more recently for residential development. Forty-two percent of the watershed is comprised of commercial and state forest lands. Capitol Forest, a state-owned forest logged for the education trust, is managed by Washington State Department of Natural Resources and was first logged in the early 1900’s. In the lowlands of the watershed, several large farms remain, and several residential developments have been built in the southern end of the watershed. Urban land uses cover approximately 2% of the watershed.

Water Quality Concerns

The primary treatment for residential wastewater in the McLane Creek watershed is septic systems. In the late 1980s, Thurston County Public Health worked with residential landowners to identify and fix failing septic systems. In the 1990s, Thurston County undertook a study of the McLane Creek sub-basin as part of a larger study of the Eld Inlet Watershed, which provides important nearshore habitat for shellfish. The study looked specifically at levels of fecal coliform bacteria, which can contaminate shellfish. The study identified nonpoint source pollution from agricultural practices, like raising livestock, as one of the sources of fecal coliform contamination. As a result, the Thurston Conservation District (TCD) began working closely with some of the agricultural landowners to identify and fix potential sources of contamination by writing farm plans that recommended best management practices to protect water quality. In some cases, landowners installed fencing to keep livestock out of the creek. TCD and Stream Team also helped to plant hundreds of trees along the creek to help restore the riparian zone. Today, Eld Inlet is open to shellfish harvesting, but McLane Creek continues to face issues with high levels of fecal coliform.

In December 2007, a major flood significantly impacted McLane Creek during chum spawning season. The impacts to chum salmon will not be known for a couple of years, until the adults, which were mere eggs carefully buried by female chum prior to the flood, return to spawn in 2010 – 2012.