2023 was a busy year of field and remote sensing work for the North Fork Tolt River Assessment. As part of bringing the Snoqualmie Tribe Ancestral Forest (STAF) back under the Tribe’s stewardship, the Tribe’s Environmental and Natural Resources (ENR) Department is undertaking a comprehensive assessment of the North Fork Tolt River and important tributaries within the STAF. Funded by a King County Parks Levy grant, along with a matching Cooperative Watershed Management grant from King County Flood Control District which is allocated through the Snoqualmie Watershed Forum, the North Fork Tolt River Assessment project is helping to fill data gaps about the state of aquatic resources throughout the North Fork Tolt watershed. The Tribe will then use that information to create conceptual designs for 2 to 4 restoration projects within the Tribe’s Ancestral Lands.

 

Low water snorkel surveys can be challenging. Here, a snorkeler contorts to survey a plane-bed “boulder garden” reach of the North Fork Tolt River. This sub-reach currently has low habitat complexity and would likely benefit from restoration.

Accomplishments for 2023 included 4 snorkel surveys of the entire NF Tolt study reach, completion of a large woody debris survey for thefull Channel Migration Zone, finalization of the synthetic channel network and focused ground-truthing of same, geomorphic site visits, and implementation of an initial temperature monitoring network consisting of 24 data loggers. It was an exciting year of data collection, and we are not only very appreciative of all who assisted in those efforts, we are thankful that we were able to complete all these tasks satisfactorily and safely. As we move into 2024, the study team is taking stock of what we learned, what we still need to know, and what we can reasonably accomplish in the remainder of the project term, which includes one more season of field data collection.

 

Through its assessment, restoration design and other efforts, the Tribe is jump-starting work to restore and heal the land after centuries of the Tribe being excluded from management decisions. It’s all part of embodying the Native philosophy of reciprocity with the land, and we are grateful to our project funders for helping to make this project happen. This is the second update on our project, and we plan to keep providing information as we learn more. Stay tuned!

Rainbow Trout in the North Fork Tolt

Monthly surveys on the North Fork Tolt sought to understand how Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) use this river in the summer months, when habitat is changing relatively quickly in high elevation headwaters. These well camouflaged fish can sometime be hard to spot.