Off the Press

February 8, 2011

By Greg Farrar

Greg Farrar Press photographer

A recent photo assignment for our Issaquah Living magazine coming in next week’s Press has shed some insight into what can only be described as our little local miracle, Issaquah Creek.

We all have seen the creek as it moves past the hatchery, or under the vehicle bridges on Gilman Boulevard, Newport Way or Front Street. We definitely get a good look when it floods. But that leaves more than 99 percent of the creek unseen by most people as it comes down from Tiger Mountain and north through the valley.

I’ve been wading knee-deep in water, pushing through hummocks of blackberry vines, hiking and climbing down hillsides of forest to find the headwaters, trickles, waterfalls, and brooks that give birth to our creek.

There are four main branches — Holder Creek, which starts on the southeast slope of Tiger Mountain; Carey Creek, which begins in Hobart and comes together with Holder Creek at the Bonomi Farm by Highway 18 to create Issaquah Creek; Fifteenmile Creek, which starts on Tiger’s southwest slope and meets Issaquah Creek at Southeast May Valley Road; and the East Fork, which starts at High Point and joins Issaquah Creek west of Darigold.

Some of these spots are so quiet, so calm and so secluded! Ferns grow not only all over the ground, but also all over tree trunks. Moss covers branches overhead and hangs down in streamers. Fungus and toadstools grow on dead trees that have fallen into the creek. Forest shade is dappled with spots of sunlight that penetrate from high above, and a small thread of water burbles by, in some spots slowly and quietly in pools, but in others splashing noisily over rocks.

There are areas where the ground is wet and mushy before one can hear the creek, and areas where the water has carved a channel through solid rock. One spot may be muddy with silt, another will be loaded with a bed of gravel and the next will be a rush of clear, cold water over large rounded river rocks.

Plant life and geology creates one kind of habitat in one area, and another area will have plant life and geology so completely foreign it couldn’t possibly be part of the same creek, but it is.

What a blessing to have this river full of life in the middle of our bustling, busy, developed city. And what a blessing that so many people treasure it and do their part to preserve it.

The number of creek habitat restoration projects and native plantings can’t be counted. Scouts, families, hikers and ecologists from here and beyond respond to each call that goes out. The city, corporate developers and nonprofit groups alike have stepped forward over the years to improve and maintain the health of the creek in our urban areas.

What I found out, though, is that our efforts can help but just can’t beat what nature does at no charge out there in the remote origins of Issaquah Creek. When presented with a miracle, it seems only right to remember it and give thanks.

When you see the photos in next week’s magazine, I humbly hope they achieve a response of thanks for this gift of nature’s handiwork.

Greg Farrar: 392-6434, ext. 235, or gfarrar@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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