The Place of the Singing Fish

SPSSEG-KCST-posterLong 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

IMG_8045Over-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 18,000-30,000 fish. In 2019, Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) purchased over 600 acres of land containing prime chum spawning habitat from Green Diamond Resource Company to preserve and protect vital habitat in the watershed and restore ecosystem processes. In 2020, DNR purchased the land that contains the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail from Taylor Shellfish. The Kennedy Creek estuary is part of a 200-acre Natural Area Preserve managed by DNR since 1999. Above the estuary, the corridor all along Kennedy Creek (about 1500 acres) was designated as a Natural Resource Conservation Area by DNR in 2016. The land within this NRCA is a mix of private and state landowners.


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 docents, please contact Megan Brady, Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail Coordinator at (360) 701-6907 or email . Getting folks out to the Trail is our number one priority.