The Sammamish Slough:

What were we thinking?

According to the Seattle Times, the Sammamish River was a meandering stream until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers straightened it in 1964 to improve water flow during floods. That project shortened the river from 20 miles to 13 and eliminated many of the sloughs and side channels where fish can rest. The consequences or this may not have been evident back then, but they certainly are now. Results of the creation of the Sammamish River slough include:

  • Disrupted salmon runs-- Trees and brush cleared away from the bank of the slough used to shade the waters and protect it from the heat of the sun. Without the trees, the waters get dangerously warm during salmon season, killing many of the fish so precious to the Pacific Northwest Region, such as the chinook seen here. Salmon also depend on side channels and pools as resting places during their long trek upstream, which were also deleted from the river course because no one saw a cause for them.

  • Other water life--Perhaps obviously, the water temperatures affect all life in the river year round, not just the salmon in the fall. Even the tiniest change--the death of one species of microorganism that can't stand the heat-- can cause the whole web to fall apart. For instance, if you get rid of bacteria which help break down dead matter in the water, not only does the river become saturated with dead material, but the plants in the surrounding areas become starved for nutrients.

  • Altered and damaged aquafirs, ground water--Changing the course of the river changes more water systems than just the river itself. Underwater streams and aquafirs which enrich natural soils and feed other rivers and streams can be damaged, rerouted, even destroyed altogether by meddling with a river bed. By changing the general waterflow patterns of the area, this can cause droughts and decrease the nutrient value of the soil.

But wait! There is hope, and it comes in the form of a program called Sammamish ReLeaf. This Sammamish version of Global ReLeaf for Puget Sound was the source for the planting of over 15,000 indigenous trees and shrubs to the banks of the Sammamish River in October 1999 alone. Every October, hundreds of King County residents volunteer a weekend or two to come and restore stretches of the Sammamish to their former beauty. The goal organizers have set for Sammamish ReLeaf is to have covered the banks of the entire river by 2010, and with luck and help from the King County community, they just might make it. For more information on Sammamish ReLeaf, visit their website at

Copyright 2000 by Katie Rivard
This site is the product of a "Stewardship of Society" action research project
for Ms. Britton-Simmons' Honors 10th grade English class of 1999-2000.
Email Katie at