Gold Creek Restoration
Restoring a quarry to protect endangered fish, provide better habitat, and improve recreational opportunities.
Gold Creek, the headwaters of the upper Yakima River, originates in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and flows into Lake Keechelus just east of Snoqualmie Pass. The arrival of European settlers in Gold Creek Valley created disturbances from logging, mining, dams, roads, and railway construction. When I-90 was built, Gold Creek Valley’s native wetland was drained and quarried for gravel, resulting in a 60-foot deep pit. Without forests and wetlands in the valley, the water from nearby Gold Creek seeps into the pit, creating Gold Creek Pond. During the summer, when the river runs low, the pond saps all the water from the creek, creating a mile-long dry stretch that severely threatens the endangered Bull Trout population.
The USFS Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has partnered with local restoration groups to solve this problem. The Kittitas Conservation Trust has been hard at work since 2013, studying the impacts of the dewatering and identifying restoration strategies to restore the watershed’s natural functions. Gold Creek Pond is also a popular recreational destination, offering a large parking area, picnic field, and paved walking path around the pond. It is one of few ADA-accessible trails in the I-90 corridor. The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust is part of the group crafting restoration strategies, with the goal of maintaining recreational access in the area.
Ultimately, the Forest Service will decide what restoration takes place in Gold Creek Valley. The alternatives for the creek and the pond will be analyzed through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Through the NEPA process, the public will be able to weigh in on the various alternatives. Once the Forest Service makes a decision, the Greenway Trust will work with them, Kittitas Conservation Trust, and many other partners to implement their plan.