A few weeks ago, I persuaded my river running friends to paddle down Thomas Creek, a small creek in Skagit County, Washington. The headwaters of Thomas Creek are north and east of the town of Sedro-Woolley. Thomas Creek supports coho and chum salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. Several areas of the creek are listed on the state's list of most polluted waters, the 303(d) list, because of high levels of fecal coliform, low dissolved oxygen, and pH outside of the allowable range.
The creek was narrow where we started, and our teenage paddler expressed some discontent when he saw lots of brush and logs. But almost immediately we saw two beavers, and he was happy.
While I enjoy these trips, and always learn a lot, they are hard, and I've learned to wear my very worst clothes and a helmet. The helmet is great for navigating through culverts - the insides of these culverts have huge bolts - they were not made with paddlers in mind. We just barely squeezed through this one, and the water was quite unsavory.
Around every bend, a new surprise, and more unsavory water. The overhanging blackberry vines here ripped my shirt to shreds, but my head was fine, because of the helmet.
Here's a surprise...looks like a place that cattle come right down to the water to drink! I thought that was outlawed a long time ago, but I guess not. We didn't see any cattle here, but it looks like they come down here a lot, without any fences to stop them. Maybe that's why this creek is listed on the most polluted waters list.
Around the bend we went, and I think these are the cattle that walk into the stream to drink, but I'm not sure. They look happy, right here by this pretty creek, which probably floods right up into their pasture, carrying away their manure with each flood event.
At this point, our teenager was getting really hungry, and cranky. He kept asking "Where are we?" and "How much longer will it take to get to the road?" Truth was, we had no idea, and after we gave him some potato chips, he was happier. There was about a half-mile of really brushy, rough going, but we made it though this section, which had lots of trash and even more unsavory water.
Well, we finally made it through the rough section, to the confluence with the Samish River, pictured above, which is also on the state's most polluted waters list. Downstream from the confluence, we continued down the fast-flowing Samish River, all the way to Edison. If you'd like to join us on one of these adventures, just let us know. Thanks for reading.