Hood Canal supports a population of threatened summer chum salmon recognized
by scientists as unique due to their distinctive life history and genetic
traits and is also home to threatened Chinook salmon and bull trout. The
watershed is also home to Coho and pink salmon, fall and winter chum, summer
and winter steelhead, searun cutthrout and rainbow trout.
|Salmon images courtesy of King County. Steelhead
image courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration/Department of Commerce.
|How Summer Chum
Use the Water Bodies
Summer chum salmon are the earliest returning chum salmon stocks in the Hood
Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca region. Summer chum spawning occurs from
mid-August through September, generally within the lowest few miles of streams.
Summer chum adults may mill in front of their stream of origin for up to
ten to twelve days before entering freshwater to spawn.
Eight existing summer chum salmon population aggregations
have been identified and targeted for recovery.
These eight tend to be associated with the following
river systems in Hood Canal: Big Quilcene and Little
Quilcene Rivers, Dosewallips River, Duckabush River,
Hama Hama River, Lilliwaup River, Union River and
in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca; Jimmycomelately
Creek, Salmon Creek, and Snow Creek.
Summer chum can often be found in other Hood
Canal drainages in low numbers, but are likely
associated with one of the eight identified populations.
However, straying and potential colonization by
these populations may be important to the long-term
viability of this unique salmon species. It is
also important to note that re-introduction efforts
are currently underway in Chimacum Creek, Big Beef
Creek, and the Tahuya River, and have been very
successful to date.
Most summer chum salmon juveniles spend little
time in freshwaters, instead preferring to emigrate
early in their life cycle. Past and more recent
studies indicate that these juveniles spend time
in their natal estuarine deltas and, significantly,
in more remote nearshore tidal marsh complexes
as they migrate to the open ocean environment.
Summer Chum Salmon and the Hood Canal Watershed
more information about salmon recovery planning
in this watershed, click here.
to read this watershed's feedback summary for Chum.
Click here to read
this watershed's feedback summary for Chinook.
Land ownership in the watershed
is 48% federal and includes portions of Olympic National
Park and Olympic National Forest, 39% private, 12% state
and local, and 1% Tribal trust lands.
Hood Canal is 62 miles long by boat with the HCCC covering
a total of about 358 miles of shoreline. This is about
15% of the total inland marine shoreline, or 25% of Puget
Hood Canal spans Mason, Jefferson and Kitsap Counties.
The summer chum salmon ESU, along with Hood Canal Counties,
also includes an eastern portion of Clallam County
where it overlaps with Jimmycomelately Creek and the
The only major city in the watershed is Port Townsend.
Projected population growth for Jefferson County is
43% between 2000 and 2020 and 41% and 54% for Mason
and Kitsap Counties respectively.
The planning area for the summer chum salmon ESU
includes parts of Watershed Resource Inventory Area
14, 15, 17 and 18 and all of WRIA 16.
Located in western Washington, Hood Canal is not really a canal
at all but rather a picturesque glacial fjord that sits in the shape
of a backwards checkmark between Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.
Five major rivers with upper reaches protected inside Olympic National
Park flow east into Hood Canal. The Dosewallips, Duckabush, Hama
Hama, Skokomish, and Big Quilcene rivers mix with the waters of countless
smaller streams and creeks that flow west from the Kitsap Peninsula.
Endowed with an abundance of biologically-rich estuaries, Hood Canal
produces Pacific oysters, known world-wide for their unique flavor,
as well as a smorgasbord of other shellfish, crab and shrimp.
When George Vancouver sailed into Hood Canal in the spring of 1792,
he wrote about the fjord’s “pristine stillness,” and
how nature’s “awful silence was only now and then interrupted
by the croaking of a raven, the breathing of a seal, or the scream
of an eagle.” Today, visitors and residents can still hear
ravens, seals and eagles along with traffic sounds along Highway
101 on the western shore. People still enjoy this area for its natural
beauty and opportunities for crabbing, hiking, kayaking, fishing
Hood Canal recovery efforts focus most directly on threatened summer
chum, however most actions that benefit chum also benefit threatened
Chinook in the watershed. These recovery efforts involve the entire
summer chum salmon evolutionarily significant unit (ESU), which includes
several watersheds draining into the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Major Policy or Actions Needed
to Recover Salmon
Due to the life history of summer chum, Hood Canal recovery actions
center on nearshore areas and the lower few miles of freshwater river
habitats of Hood Canal and the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. Restoration
of the larger estuaries on the western shore of Hood Canal has been
a major focus, while recent updates of the Hood Canal Coordinating
Council’s Salmon Habitat Recovery Strategy have emphasized
the need to expand to the other natal summer chum salmon estuaries
of the Kitsap Peninsula and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In addition
to natal estuarine deltas and their associated wetlands, recovery
planners have identified hundreds of recovery actions in the nearshore
and smaller estuaries of the region. Prioritization of these projects
is underway through review and update of the Salmon Habitat Recovery
The staffs of Mason, Jefferson and Kitsap counties are currently
working collaboratively with the tribes and the Hood Canal Coordinating
Council to 1) review land use, growth management and critical areas
regulations related to summer chum salmon habitat, 2) assess future
build-out expected in the nearshore over the next 20 years, 3)
evaluate where the regulatory structure works and where there is
conflict and 4) identify action alternatives that can address conflicts
and foster protection and restoration.
The protections afforded the upper reaches of the five major rivers
that flow into the western shore of Hood Canal as a result of
U.S. Forest Service riparian reserves and U.S. National Park Service
efforts are an important advantage for salmon recovery in this region. Most
of the land along the nearhore and in the estuaries, however,
is in private hands. In setting priorities for the next 5 to 10
years, involvement and incentives for private land owners are critical.
Several education and outreach projects designed to assist private
landowners along marine nearshores to become more “salmon
habitat friendly,” are underway.
Highway 101 runs the entire length of the west shore and through
Hood Canal’s largest and most valuable estuaries and disrupts
sediments which maintain nearshore habitats. With the objective
of rehabilitation of Hood Canal’s estuaries, marine nearshores
and lower river habitats, examination of options for re-configuring
Highway 101 is a priority for future decision making and action.
Making Progress—Some Accomplishments
Watershed Restoration Groups
The continued development and improved effectiveness of
locally-based watershed restoration groups has been
a major driver in efforts to protect and restore vast
swaths of critical habitats. Examples include the Chumsortium’s
work in the Snow/Salmon and Chimacum watersheds, the
Dosewallips Restoration Team, the Skokomish River Restoration
Team, and the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group’s
efforts in the Union, Tahuya, and Dewatto watersheds.
Major Estuary Restoration
At least seven major projects are underway to restore
critical estuarine habitat. These include removal of
levees, borrow ditches and tidegates to allow disconnected
and degraded salt marshes to recover in the Skokomish,
Union, and Dosewallips estuaries. Significant acquisition
efforts to allow for future restoration continue in
the Union, Dosewallips, Big and Little Quilcenes, and
Snow/Salmon estuaries. Natural functions and processes
are being restored in the Chimacum estuary through
removal of fill and riprap. Work has begun in the Duckabush
estuary to model potential alternatives and their associated
benefits for reconfiguring the SR101 causeway.
Successful Protection Effort Spawns More Protection
The Hood Canal Salmon Sanctuary (HCSS) has protected
more than 1,000 acres of salmon habitat over its nearly
10 year history, focused mostly on the Kitsap Peninsula.
The interest developing in the area continues to leverage
efforts to maintain and increase these habitats, and
is supported by the transition of the HCSS to a larger,
more robust group of individuals and agencies under
the title of the Hood Canal Alliance.
- Hood Canal Coordinating Council
- Jefferson County
- Kitsap County
- Mason County
- Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe
- Skokomish Tribe
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