Woodland Creek

Local Streams

Flowing through the heart of Lacey, Woodland Creek is a fascinating example of an urbanized creek that still supports several species of salmon, including Chinook, coho and chum.

Woodland Creek/Henderson Inlet

The Henderson Inlet Watershed, located at the northeastern tip of Thurston County, includes portions of Olympia, Lacey and Thurston County. Henderson Inlet is one of the five major inlets that comprise the southern terminus of Puget Sound, along with Budd, Eld, Totten and Nisqually Reach. This watershed drains approximately 40 square miles in total area. Five major streams flow into Henderson Inlet: two large tributaries, Woodland and Woodard Creeks, and three smaller streams, Dobbs Creek, Snug Creek and Sleepy Creek.

Flowing through the heart of Lacey, Woodland Creek is a fascinating example of an urbanized creek that still supports several species of salmon, including Chinook, coho and chum. Like many rapidly urbanizing areas, the Woodland Creek sub-watershed faces problems. Increasingly, the land that drains into the creek is being developed, changing prairies and woodlands to impervious surfaces, such as roofs, driveways, roads and parking lots. These impervious surfaces create large amounts of stormwater runoff. Currently, almost 28% of the Woodland Creek sub-watershed is characterized as impervious. An impervious surface area of 10% or greater in a watershed begins to degrade the receiving stream.

Woodland Creek’s source is the first of a chain of three lakes and their associated, connecting wetlands. Hicks Lake is at the top of this complex and is connected to Pattison Lake via a wetland area and ditch that flows beneath Mullen Road. From Pattison Lake, water flows into Long Lake via another wetland area and a ditch that is easily seen below the Mullen Road Burlington Northern overpass/trestle. From Long Lake, Woodland Creek meanders through Lacey’s Woodland Creek Community Park and into Lake Lois. Flowing northward, through the Saint Martin’s campus and under Martin Way and I-5, Woodland Creek eventually enters the southern end of Henderson Inlet.

Local Streams

In order to reduce stream scouring and pollution caused by large volumes of stormwater running off streets and other impervious surfaces, the City of Lacey recently completed a major regional stormwater retention and treatment facility near the Saint Martin’s campus. By storing stormwater during periods of heavy rain and releasing the treated water slowly into Woodland Creek, stream flows are made steadier and cleaner, especially during dry summer months.

As the largest surface water contributor of fecal coliform bacteria to Henderson Inlet, Woodland Creek is also on the State Department of Ecology’s list of impaired water bodies. For decades, the rich and fruitful shellfish growing areas have been subject to restrictions and closures by the State Department of Health, especially after periods of heavy rains. Since shellfish are one of the best indicators of the health of Puget Sound, Thurston County established a Henderson Inlet Shellfish Protection District that involved many residents and stakeholders of the inlet in finding solutions to the pollution problems. (For more information about Shellfish Protection Districts, go to http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/shellfish/publicationsmedia.htm#waterquality)

Failing septic systems and pet waste were found to be the major contributors of fecal coliform bacteria in Henderson Inlet. In 2005, Thurston County Environmental Health created a program to improve septic system operations and maintenance in the watershed. Additional agencies and organizations embarked on an effort to encourage citizens to pick up pet waste. While only one part of many efforts to improve water quality, the Henderson Shellfish Protection District was instrumental in the 2010 reopening of 240 acres of shellfish-growing tidelands in the north portion of the Henderson Inlet. The re-opening of the shellfish beds was the first in Henderson Inlet since restrictions were placed by the State Department of Health more than 25 years ago. The shellfish upgrade in the north portion of Henderson Inlet is considered a dramatic win in the battle against degraded water quality in the entire Puget Sound region. Nevertheless, the south end of Henderson Inlet, at the mouth of Woodland Creek, remains closed to shellfish harvesting due to bacterial pollution, so work remains to be done.

As a testimony to this effort, as well as all of the work that the City of Lacey and Stream Team have done in planting thousands of native trees and shrubs in many parts of the upland areas of the Woodland Creek, marking storm drains and installing bag dispensers for pet waste pickup, Henderson Inlet has something new for everyone to be proud of: edible shellfish! The Henderson Inlet Community Shellfish Farm now enables local people to purchase shares of a sustainable food resource. Just like buying farm shares, participants can now buy shares of Henderson Inlet Pacific oysters. Unique in the United States, this community-supported aquaculture effort is truly a testament to community-wide success in maintaining and improving water quality in the entire Henderson Inlet Watershed.