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A world of riparian wildlife: Visiting the Northwest Stream Center in Everett

The administrative director at the Northwest Stream Center, Kerry Singleterry, observes the organisms in two window exhibits filled with freshwater mussels, cutthroat trout and freshwater crayfish on Friday, Aug. 10. The Northwest Stream Center is located at McCollum Park.

EVERETT — The day is warm and pleasant, with a light breeze providing relief from the hot summer sun. The sound of a small creek can be heard through the rustling branches of large oak trees. A rabbit darts across the wooden path as a woodpecker flies to a nearby tree. 
This is just one of the many potential scenes a visitor may see at the Northwest Stream Center, which is offering free admission Aug. 22 through Aug. 26. 
The center inside Everett’s McCollum Park, built as a part of the Adopt A Stream Foundation, gives people an opportunity to see the large variety of plants and animals that live in or near Washington’s bodies of water on a scenic nature walk.
The start of the path features a large viewing tank set up to model a stream. Here, trout, crawfish and freshwater clams can be viewed up close.

If you go:
Northwest Stream Center
Inside Snohomish County’s McCollum Park,
600 128th Street SE, Everett.
Open Thursdays through Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Reservations recommended.
Contact: 425-316-8592 or

The elevated walkway is divided into sections, with each area designed to showcase one of the many biomes that can be found in Western Washington. Signs are scattered throughout to provide information about different plant species. One of the most notable regions is the Cedar Cathedral, where massive cedars reach into the sky. Just before this, there are some old growth tree stumps, one of which has a circumference of 32 feet.
As the trail continues, there is a wide open meadow with tall, dead trees. This is known as Wild Bird Alley. Woodpeckers, hawks, eagles, owls, and even a great blue heron are frequently spotted here, said Tom Murdoch, the executive director of the project.
Birds are not the only animals here. The area contains many different species like coyotes, deer, possums, rabbits, squirrels and even a few bears. But, the most important animals live in the water. North Creek, which runs through the park, is one of the many streams salmon use to get to their spawning grounds. Salmon populations decrease each year throughout the Pacific Northwest, and ecologists at the preserve hope to help restore salmon’s numbers with the help of the public. 
The center’s main goal is to increase public awareness about different bodies of water and how to keep them healthy. The nature walk gives visitors a view of what a healthy environment around streams and wetlands looks like. Everything is designed to be low impact, from the gatehouse built with a green roof to the brick path constructed to allow easy water flow. 
The importance of good riparian zones is emphasized throughout the park
exhibits. A riparian zone is an area of land next to a river or stream full of different kinds of plants. An optimal zone would have about 200 or 300 feet of uninterrupted forest, and would in turn keep the water cool and allow animals such as salmon to thrive. 
The Adopt A Stream Foundation was established as a private nonprofit in 1985.
The organization mainly focused on teaching school children about rivers through their still active Streamkeeper Academy, attending conferences about salmon conservation and working with the state to monitor streams and train staff. Then, in 1992, it built the Northwest Stream Center in conjunction with Snohomish County Parks and Recreation. Today, foundation staf continue to work on stream and wildlife conservation throughout the United States.
Murdoch says that in Snohomish County, retaining riparian zones almost never happens. Many river areas have been obstructed by roads and different developments, which in turn degrades the environment. The lack of education on the issue doesn’t help the problem.
“Most people really don’t know how stream systems work,” Murdoch said.
He hopes that the center will teach people how to love and care for their environment.
He cited a quote by Baba Dioum, a Senegalese conservationist: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.”
The Northwest Stream Center is located in McCollum Park at 600 128th Street SE, in Everett. It is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Reservations for a tour are highly recommended but not required. You can contact the center for a reservation at 425-316-8592 or 


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