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The Qwuloot Estuary

This marshy land refuses to be tamed.

Early white farmers diked the sloughs, tried to set up homesteads. Today, the homesteads are gone. The beavers, otters, and birds remain -– even after the environmental toll taken by waterfront industry, even as housing developments encroach on the nearby hills. Today, less than 20 percent of the Snohomish River’s estuaries remain intact

The estuaries appear to the eye as horizontal bands of greens, blues, brown. They're filled with branching channels of water lined with cadaverous mud: eroded smooth and smelling of rotten vegetation. The bramble bushes here are part indigenous rosehips, part invasive Himalayan blackberry. The matted horsetails and random butterfly bushes are invasive, too -– brought there by farmers to try and stop the winding of the estuary sloughs. The herons and seagulls are native. The salmon, beavers, river otters and more than 350 kinds of birds are indigenous.

The pilings that appear at intervals are remnants of old warehouses and fruit packing plants accessible by boat.

Before levees were built along Ebey Slough, the area was a tidal marsh full of interconnected tidal channels, mudflats, and streams.  The restoration of the Qwuloot Estuary is the second largest tidal marsh restoration project in the Pacific Northwest.


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And still, the land refuses to be tamed. Diked, drained, farmed, channeled it still remains “unusable” in an agricultural sense. It’s too muddy, too marshy, too eroded by the influx of seawater. The water is partially salinized and kills plants, creating a bizarre landscape of grasses, thorny bushes and gnarled trees. It is so barren and strange that it’s appealing – at least in my eyes.

It’s a dreamscape for walkers, joggers, kayakers, canoer-rowers, and birdwatchers on the Ebey Slough Trail.

The land is being reworked, trying to undo some of the manmade damage that has been inflicted upon the ecosystem.

It’s still here.


Visit the Ebey Slough Trail in Marysville - Click Here

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Managing Editor
Richard Porter
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