Moxlie Creek

Local Streams

The best place to see Moxlie Creek is on the loop trail in Watershed Park.

Moxlie Creek

Moxlie Creek Watershed:

  • Total watershed is 1,560 acres
  • Avg. 27% impervious surfaces (above 10% begins to impair receiving stream)
  • Avg. 41% tree canopy
  • Watershed Park is 153 acres

Moxlie Creek is:

  • Artesian spring fed; springs originate in Watershed Park
  • Only 1.85 miles long; 3,200 feet of the creek is piped under Chestnut Street in downtown Olympia.

The best place to see Moxlie Creek is on the loop trail in Watershed Park. Moxlie Creek starts out as an artesian spring at the southern end of the park. As it flows through the park northward towards Budd Inlet, the creek is joined by more springs and groundwater from the forested wetland. After leaving the park, the creek is piped under I-5, through the City of Olympia’s Maintenance Yard, then under and along the side of Henderson Blvd. Indian Creek joins Moxlie Creek just before the intersection of Plum Street and Union Ave. Both creeks are piped under Union Avenue and northward 2/3 mile to East Bay. Inside the 6 foot pipe, Moxlie Creek is joined by a network of stormwater pipes that carry the runoff from the roads, parking lots and roof tops from downtown Olympia. At East Bay, the pipe discharges the ancient artesian fresh water, Indian Creek, and today’s polluted runoff into Puget Sound.

The mouth of Moxlie Creek used to enter Budd Inlet near Plum and Union. So what happened that led to the creek being piped under downtown Olympia? In 1911, the wish of citizens to improve shipping was finally realized when Budd Inlet was dredged to make deeper water closer to land and the docks. Prior to the dredging, shipping was limited because of the mud flats (imagine Mud Bay in downtown Olympia). Two million cubic yards of mud was scooped out of Budd Inlet and spread over Swantown Slough, covering the pocket estuary. According to reports, “29 new city blocks” were created with the dredge material. The new Olympia City Hall is located on the former mud flat of Swantown Slough, next to a wooden bridge that was a popular swimming spot for young boys (See the 1873 Coast Guard map on page 3).

Filling in the estuary and piping Moxlie Creek underground was considered progress in 1911, while the resulting impact on wildlife habitat and water quality was not taken into account. At the same time, artesian wells, located in what is now Watershed Park, were being pumped for city drinking water. By 1950, the wells were no longer in use. In 1955, the City Commission decided to log the property and sell the land for development. Ultimately, the land was saved by citizen action and a special election; although it was not until the 1970’s that the land was designated as parkland and the popular loop trail was constructed.

Within Watershed Park, a 36 inch stormwater pipe carries stormwater runoff from the Olympia High School neighborhood. Moxlie Creek has typical urban water quality problems from an excessive amount of stormwater during rain events that scours the streambed and adds pollutants to the creek. Thurston County Environmental Health takes monthly water samples at the mouth of Moxlie at East Bay. Stream Team volunteers collect macroinvertebrate samples within the park in the summer to help monitor the biological health of the creek. Salmon are occasionally spotted in the creek, but the stream does not have a native salmon population.

For Water Quality information on Moxlie Creek, visit http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehswat/swater.html