[Tweeters] Everett's Okefenokee

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Aug 15 21:36:39 PDT 2010

After 20 plus years in Everett I finally got my canoe out into the lower Snohomish River Delta. For years I've gazed longingly across the slough from the north end of Spencer Island looking north to Otter Island with its stands of Sitka Spruce, thinking I've got to see whats over there ! So today I did.

Me and my buddy Ozz put the canoe in right at the bridge across Union Slough to Spencer (you cant park there but it's only a ten minute walk back from the parking lot) and paddled north on the slough right at high tide (9.2) on this 90 degree day. In about 25 minutes of paddling we were there.

Otter Island is a bit less than half the size of Spencer , but trailless and completely wild. Unlike Spencer, Smith, Ebey and other Islands in the Snohomish Delta it was never diked. Although logged by the turn of the century it has reverted to its Spruce swamp nature. This is what I really wanted to see, a bit of original habitat. Over the past hundred plus years the spruce has come back nicely. There is very little non-native vegetation out there.

Having 'scoped it out' previously on Google Earth (a free computer program I've found very usefull for checking out interesting habitat) we knew there was a 'blind tidal slough ' ( as the salmon science guys call 'em) on the NW side of the island. A very twisty narrow slough that dead ends at about the middle of the island. We got pretty well in there in the canoe, under a canopy of Spruce. Pretty cool. We have much more marshland than genuine swamp in Puget Sound country (swamp being a wetland with trees , a marsh wet mostly 'grassy'). In fact this is one of the last places left like it in the whole territory.

Last year I tweetered about the 'Lost Junipers of the Snohomish Delta' when I 'discovered' an isolated population of Rocky Mountain Junipers growing on driftlogs out on the outer edge of the Delta on Smith Island , and later found more growing up along lower Quilceda Creek on the Tulalip rez. Today I was excited to find them also growing on Otter island here and there all thru the Spruce swamp - most trees being fairly straight and around 20- 35 ' tall max and about 12" in trunk diameter. I still think its amazing that a tree that I've always associated with dry rocky ground (as in the San Juans) is also growing in a tidal swamp! Lots of other interesting plants.

Being so calm and hot and middle day it was'nt super birdy, but plenty of the usual suspects - Ospreys, Eagles, Red-tails, a few Accipiters, Kingfishers, Herons ect. Especially on the paddle back I saw numerous (more than 6) Eastern Kingbirds along union slough , both on the Spencer and Smith Island shore's. This is a dependable place to see them each year and it seems like being on a canoe helped seeing even more.

So if you have a small boat you might check it out - high tide is good else you could become mudbound.

Happy Paddling!
Jeff Gibson, from the Swamps of Everett
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