The Place of the Singing Fish
Long before the trail we know as The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail existed, another trail passed this way. It began in the Sawamish/T’Peeksin village, which stood near the mouth of Kennedy Creek. The villagers, ancestors of today’s Squaxin Island Tribe, knew the creek as the “Place of the Singing Fish”, called that for the multitudes of frogs that would sing along the creek on spring nights. The trail was used for gathering food, basket-making materials and hunting. The trail stretched from Totten Inlet to Summit Lake, and was part of a trail network that connected the villages of the south Puget Sound and the Pacific Coast to one another.
Millions of salmon returned to the streams each year, providing one of the most essential food sources for the people of this village, and other Puget Sound tribes. In The Place of the Singing Fish, chum were the main salmon species to spawn the creek, just as they are today. The Sawamish/T’Peeksin people built rock weirs at the mouth of the creek to catch the fish, which were then preserved by smoking. The abundant oil in the chum was utilized as a lubricant to move large logs used to build canoes and houses. The Sawamish/T’Peeksin people viewed the salmon as kin. Today’s Squaxin Island Tribe continues the traditions of their ancestors each year during the First Salmon Ceremony.
Kennedy Creek Today
Over-fishing and habitat degradation throughout the 20th Century turned the once abundant Kennedy Creek into a small chum run that averaged 100 fish and spent the majority of the summer as an ATV track. In 1998, things changed for the better when the Squaxin Island Tribe began closely monitoring fishing in Totten Inlet. At the same time the Taylor family (of Taylor Shellfish) signed a 20-year lease with the Kennedy Creek Management Committee and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG) to restore the creek as a chum spawning ground and to develop an interpretive trail for public use. Today the trail acts as an interactive learning site to view the incredible annual spawning event of the returning chum salmon. Returns now average 18,000-23,000 fish. The trail is located on 5 acres owned by the Taylor family (of Taylor Shellfish). The Simpson Timber Company and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) own most of the land upstream in the Kennedy Creek Watershed. For more information on the history and management of The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail leave a comment with your questions below.
What’s Happening at Kennedy Creek?
Our own “Gem of the West”, Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail, is getting a facelift. After nearly 20 years of community appreciation and involvement, the Trail is beginning to show its age. The engineer who designed the Trail, Bob Droll, volunteered his time to visit for a safety check. While our foundations are sound, there is basic maintenance that is required on our 5 platforms, and the deck of viewing station 2 needs extensive rehabilitation. Additionally, the Trail experienced some vandalism over the spring months.
In an effort to begin the process of cleanup and rehab, the Olympia Chapter of the Mountaineers and the Oakland Bay Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen descended on the trail in force. SPSSEG is so grateful to have such excellent partners in this endeavor. More work parties will be scheduled for September and October to get the Trail ready for the thousands of booted feet that will be tumbling out of hundreds of school buses come November. We were also lucky to have our friends at Booz Allen Hamilton adopt the Trail for their Annual Day of Service, where they did an excellent job setting the trail up for it’s 2016 season.
SPSSEG has started the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail History Project, an endeavor that is gathering members of the original Steering Committee back together. Representatives from US Fish and Wildlife, Mason Conservation District, and others are working to create a timeline of events that lead to our beloved Trail’s conception. A key member of the Steering Committee passed away last December; Brian Abbott will be honored at the Trail with a dedication ceremony and plaque, remembering his dedication to salmon, education, and community and reminding us how important the history of the Trail is to its future.
Kennedy Creek is lucky to have a team of over 40 devoted volunteers trail guides, who brave the rain, wind and mud to provide the 1.5 hr Trail tours. These hearty folks are the backbone of the Trail and the reach and scale of our educational program is thanks to their continued support and service. For the 2017 season, the Trail will open on October 28th and host community members of all ages until December 2. On weekends, Veteran’s Day and the Day after Thanksgiving it will be open from 10:00-4:00. Our annual Chum, Chowder and Chocolate Open House will be hosted at the Trail on Veteran’s Day. We eagerly anticipate over 6,000 visitors this year!
With so many visitors, the Trail requires consistent supervision. If you are interested in becoming a Kennedy Creek Volunteer and joining the ranks of our honored trail guides, please contact Claire Williamson or Jerilyn Walley. Getting folks out to the Trail is our number one priority. If you have a class or group of any kind that would like to schedule a guided tour of the Trail please provide the following information and email it to Claire Williamson at KennedyCreek@spsseg.org!
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