The above, present-day image above showcases the South Puget Sound and Budd Inlet. On the far left lies what was once the Moxlie Creek Estuary. Today Moxlie Creek flows for two-thirds of a mile through the City of Olympia under mostly disused warehouses and the Burlington Northern Railway.
In the lower image from 1847, the Deschutes River flows into what was once the Deschutes Estuary. Hidden behind the headlands is Percival Creek, an important habitat for Chinook, Coho, and Chum salmon and cutthroat and bull trout.
South Budd Inlet is divided into East and West Bays to the east and west of the Port of Olympia, respectively. A number of important fish-bearing streams flow into Budd Inlet. The Washington State Department of Ecology has released its Phase I TMDL study for the freshwater tributaries of the Deschutes River.
It is clear that while the water quality in most upstream tributaries is substandard, no amount of upstream conservation or restoration will improve the water quality in the South Puget Sound and Budd Inlet until Olympia takes responsibility for and honors its location at confluence of the Deschutes River and Puget Sound. The region’s environmental health depends on it.
Schneider Creek is a hidden gem in Olympia. This was once the major water drainage of West Olympia. Today, the creek runs above ground for more than a mile in a beautiful ravine with many areas of near pristine understory. Resident sculpin and cutthroat trout inhabit its lower reaches.
Currently, the last 450′ of Schneider Creek runs through a 36″ fish blocking culvert. Though a 72″ culvert was installed in 2008, no water currently flows through most of this length.
Schneider Creek Basin and the West Bay Woods
The Schneider Creek Basin, seen in the map above, forms a mile-and-a-half wildlife corridor on the West side of Budd Inlet that is threatened by development. This forest geographically defines and is integral to the sense of place for Olympia’s Northwest Neighborhood. The forest also is critical breeding habitat for Olympia’s sole colony of the Pacific Great Blue Heron. OlyEcosystems began work here nearly three years ago; this has resulted in an eleven-acre urban wildlife conservation area, much of which is being actively restored.
Above the East side of Budd Inlet, in the Northeast Neighborhood, a small fifteen-acre forest and creek remain. Though compromised by decades of neglect, this area is one of the three main sites where Olympia’s Pacific Great Blue Heron colony makes their home. These woods are a precious asset in the Northeast Neighborhood.
The Mission Creek Watershed, also in the Northeast Neighborhood, flows into Lower Budd Inlet. While Mission Creek has benefited from estuary restoration, its upper watershed still needs attention.