Cowling Creek

Home of the Suquamish Tribe’s salmon recovery research, education and outreach programs.  The center is dedicated to combining science and stewardship to conserve and restore Pacific salmon and steelhead populations and their habitats. While not open daily to the public, the Center is available for scheduled tours, educational programs and research projects.

The Cowling Creek Forest Preserve has its origin in the environmental values and commitments of Virginia and Bill Cowling, who purchased forest acreage near Suquamish with two streams running through the land to Miller Bay in 1967. During their lifetimes, they actively supported community and Tribal efforts to preserve and protect habitat for the benefit of fish and wildlife not only on their property, but throughout Kitsap County.
Ever advocates of the Suquamish Tribe’s salmon recovery and habitat protection program, Virginia and Bill Cowlings’ legacy to the community includes 28 acres which are now owned in fee by the Great Peninsula Conservancy.  Funds for the purchase of 18 of these acres were raised by Friends of Miller Bay, who remain active stewards of the land.   The second component of the Preserve – another 14 acres, including the Cowlings’ home – is under the ownership of the Suquamish Tribe. The Tribe administers this component, known as the Cowling Creek Center, to advance salmon recovery research and education programs for the preservation and enhancement of Pacific salmon and steelhead populations and their habitats.
The 42 acre Cowling Creek Forest Preserve includes trails through the mature forest and riparian corridor of Cowling and North Cowling Creeks.  The forested property filters and moderates creek flow and provides a corridor for wildlife connecting the forest with the nearshore-marine environment.  Up to 30,000 chum salmon return to Cowling Creek each fall to spawn.  Bear, eagle, and river otter feed on these salmon, and find refuge on the land. Parking for those wishing to access the trails through the preserve is provided at the Cowling Creek Center.

Interested in visiting Cowling Creek Center?

Education Programs

  • Cowling Creek Education (2)

    Suquamish Elementary students visit Cowling Creek Center’s inactive hatchery to learn about the lifecycle of salmon.

    Cowling Creek Hatchery
    A high production hatchery  from 1977-2002,  the facility was used to rebuild East Kitsap chum salmon runs. It remains in use today for public educational programs. Tours of the facility are available for elementary, high school and college students classes. The facility is also used as a classroom for Chief Kitsap Academy environmental science programs.

  • Life on the Edge
    Cowling Creek Center partners with Olympic College for students taking Life on the Edge. A class for non-biology majors, students spend time at the center exploring the influences of the forest on the creek.  Field work in the forest area includes taking air and water temperatures and checking dissolved oxygen levels and water clarity.  Beach seining at the Nooschkum sandspit helps students focus on the interaction of the freshwater streams with the estuary. Discussions are devoted to understanding the fish, wildlife and plants that depend on this environment and our human impact on the habitat functions and values.
  • Cowling Creek Education (1)

    Educational tours at the Cowling Creek Center are available for classes throughout the year.

    Kitsap Salmon Tours
    Cowling Creek Center partners with conservation organizations throughout Kitsap County to bring outdoor educational tours to the public every fall during returning salmon runs. Download more information about the program here.

Research Programs

  • Nearshore Assessments
    The Suquamish Tribe began conducting beach seining in the nearshore environment of Bainbridge Island in 1979.  Since then, it has expanded the monitoring program to include Liberty Bay, Dyes Inlet, Sinclair Inlet, Manchester, Keyport and Appletree Cove. Data is collected on aquatic plants, terrestrial cover, salmonids and forage fish. Activities also include considerations of physical landscape types and structures such as docks that affect the nearshore environment and habitat.  The Tribe was an active partner in the East Kitsap Nearshore Salmon Habitat Assessment and Restoration Prioritization Framework.
  • Beach Seining
    In the nearshore environment of Bainbridge Island is conducted through a cooperative government-to-government relationship between the Suquamish Tribe and the City of Bainbridge Island. Find out more about the Bainbridge Island Beach Seining Project.
  • North Kitsap Stream Mapping & Typing
    Streams flowing into Miller Bay were located, mapped and typed during 2010 by Jamie Glasco, of the Wild Fish Conservancy, and his crew.  Jamie shared preliminary study results at the Annual Meeting of the Friends of Miller Bay in November 2010. Typing and mapping continues on streams in other North Kitsap watersheds. Funded by a Kitsap County salmon grant and supported with help of the Suquamish Tribe’s salmon recovery program.
  • Forage Fish Populations
    Beaches provide spawning substrate for two species of forage fish – surf smelt and sandlance.  In addition to documenting forage fish spawning beaches and utilization of the nearshore, eggs are collected for DNA analysis at the Cowling Creek Center.
  • Eelgrass & Bull Kelp
    Cowling Creek Center biologists are actively engaged in investigations with USGS concerning eelgrass and the pilot bull kelp restoration project.