The Delta

Posted by Ken Campbell October 5, 2010 0 Comment 782 views


The Nisqually River begins on the flanks of Mount Rainier and flows more than 50 miles to its confluence with Puget Sound. The Nisqually Delta is a wonderland of riparian life, biologically fecund and inherently beautiful.

It also happens to be a perfect place for kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards. The intricate waterways that lace through the marshes provide for a sense of discovery around every corner and conditions are usually benign. Tide is a factor, of course, and like every other river delta, there is a lot of mud when the water is out. (Please note: there are tide tables for that. If you’re caught high and dry by outgoing water, you need to accept that it was your lack of judgment and inadequate preparation that has brought you there, not some malevolent aspect of nature. I’m just saying.)

With that said, a 10-foot tide is just about right for most human-powered craft to visit the Nisqually Reach. Less water than that and it gets hard to explore the passageways; too much water means the entire delta is covered.

It’s an area that many paddlers in western Washington have already experienced. And, as good as it is, it is getting better. Dikes that have stood for a hundred years – leftover constructs from the time when a farm was operated on the site – have been breached, allowing salt water back into parts of the delta that have not been part of the tidal cycle since they were first built. Habitat for salmon and migratory birds has been enhanced, which means that, if you like paddling with wildlife, it’s been enhanced for you as well.

The changes, from the way it was 10 years ago to what it is today, have been huge. If you haven’t paddled there lately, you will be surprised by the way it looks now, especially in the southern part of the delta, near McAllister Creek. Jesse Barham, Restoration Biologist at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge will be giving a presentation on the Delta and the ongoing changes at the Matelot meeting in Tacoma, Monday, October 11th, at 7:00 pm. For more information, visit the Matelot site.

Then go paddle.

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