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Thornton Creek

Thornton Creek is 18 miles (29 km) of urban creeks and tributaries from southeast Shoreline through northeast Seattle to Lake Washington. The creek is the largest watershed in Seattle, draining a 12-square-mile region of relatively dense biodiversity for an urban setting, home to frogs, newts, ducks, other birds an occasional beaver, in addition to over 200,000 people. From west of Jackson Park Golf Course in Shoreline, from Sunny Walter-Pillings Pond in Licton Springs–North College Park, and north Northgate Thornton creek flows through Maple Leaf and Lake City including Meadowbrook and Matthews Beach neighborhoods, emptying into the lake at Matthews Beach Park

Habitat and stewardship

Thornton creek flows through Meadowbrook Pond, visited by migratory birds and an occasional transient beaver or coyote. Prior to European settlement, Native Americans lived around Lake Washington. One of the eighteen historic home sites was identified near the mouth of Thornton Creek. Early in the 1900s the creek was a spawning ground for fish (at least five species of Pacific salmon and trout), as well as habitat for insects, amphibians, muskrats, bats, coyotes, and birds. The areas surrounding the creek were developed without regard for the importance of maintaining habitat and a riparian corridor; species diversity declined, and the creek became a typical, significantly degraded urban watershed. Storm water retention, sites restoration, an Environmental Learning Center adjacent to a school, and a fish ladder contributed to restoration and the return of native plants and wildlife.

For many decades much of the stream has run through culverts, notably under the car park of Northgate Mall. Building on gradual successes in restoration, activist neighbors initiated and have had some success working with the City of Seattle and developers toward daylighting parts of the buried creek. Organizations of citizens have cleaned up adjacent wetlands, educated the public about stream health and quality of neighborhood life, and rallied to bring more of the creek to daylight. Many restoration projects in Seattle have been in some way connected to or inspired by Thornton Creek.

Neighborhoods of the Thornton Creek watershed

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