The University of Washington, Bothell/ Cascadia Community College campus is the location for one of the largest and most complex floodplain restorations ever undertaken in the Pacific Northwest. It is a bold attempt to restore highly altered pastureland to a sustainable, functioning floodplain ecosystem within an urbanizing watershed. The project is unique in the degree to which fundamental theories of ecosystem and restoration ecology were utilized in the design and are being employed in the management of the site.
In 1989 the Washington State legislature authorized the construction of two UW branch campuses to increase access to higher education. Following its start in 1990 in a temporary location, the Bothell branch of the University of Washington opened its doors at a permanent home in the fall of 2000. UW Bothell was located jointly with the state’s newest community college, Cascadia Community College, on a 127-acre site containing the floodplain of a moderate sized stream (North Creek) and a hillside created by glacial deposition over 15,000 years ago. North Creek is a salmon-bearing stream, containing viable populations of a number of salmon species despite being the central stream in one of the most rapidly urbanizing watersheds of the central Puget Sound region. The portion of North Creek that runs through the campus is just upstream from its junction with the Sammamish River near the north end of Lake Washington.
There is abundant evidence that this floodplain landscape once supported a rich mosaic of different wetland ecosystem types. Over the past 80 years or more, these natural communities were cleared by logging and displaced by pastureland following the straightening of the stream channel and creation of dikes to reduce flooding. The State of Washington purchased the land from the Truly family, who had long maintained a ranch operation on the site. The initial construction of the campus occurred on the hillslopes above the floodplain and required the filling of sensitive spring-fed wetland habitats on those slopes. Permits to allow wetland filling mandated the mitigation of these impacts by restoring 58.5 acres of floodplain wetlands along North Creek on campus. The project design and implementation was led by renowned wetland ecologists at L.C. Lee and Associates. The design included a restoration of underlying physical, chemical and hydrological features of the stream channel and floodplain through creating a new stream channel and complex floodplain microtopography. Establishing these foundational characteristics at the outset, along with effective monitoring and adaptive management, has created the conditions for a thriving and naturally developing wetland ecosystem.
The construction of the wetland, including extensive earthwork to construct the stream channel and floodplain, as well as planting, stretched over 4 years from 1998 to 2002. Since that time, the two campus institutions have devoted considerable resources to monitoring and maintaining the developing natural system to ensure its long term success. The site has become a living laboratory for students on campus and visitors from nearby K-20 schools and the general public, as well as wetland and restoration professionals who come to study a great success story in ecological restoration.
About the Collection
This collection includes photographs documenting the restoration project, from its early day before and during construction through its ecological development to the present times. Images address many aspects of the science and natural history of the site and its human use. We welcome your use of these images for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to the photographer(s) under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported license. The collection aslo includes maps and documents relevant to the wetlands restoration project.
Text: Warren Gold, Professor, University of Washington Bothell