The remarkable story of Lower Japanese Gulch

By Janet Carroll | Nov 07, 2012
Courtesy of: Janet Carroll Volunteers constructed a trail connecting Mukilteo Lane with 5th Street, with its grand opening in 2009. Read here the story of the Lower Japanese Gulch trail.

The city owned area in Japanese Gulch between Mukilteo Lane and 5th Street has a remarkable recent history.

In 2008, Kevin Stoltz, one of our councilmen, decided to act on a plan that he had been mulling around for several years – constructing a trail connecting Mukilteo Lane with 5th Street using volunteers.

The city agreed with the idea and determined the boundaries of city land and the extent of wetlands, obtained designs for bridges and boardwalks and supplied materials.

Kevin and his volunteers then took over.

The volunteers were an interesting mix; there was an expert at each aspect of trail construction and planting. The result is a much loved and much used trail with state-of-the-art bridge construction.

Because the trail impacted wetlands, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) required the city to restore the flat, blackberry covered area at the bottom of the trail to native habitat.

Volunteers, who had contentedly been building bridges and boardwalks, now gritted their teeth and began the arduous task or removing Himalayan blackberries, roots and all.

In December 2008, the community planted 500 native plants where the blackberries had been.

Volunteers added benches made by cutting logs with chain saws, kids built bird houses, Eagle Scout Sam Short and his scout troop built kiosks for the trailheads, the city created an interpretive sign; plant labels were placed, and a checklist of wildlife and plants prepared.

In December 2009, the grand opening of the trail was celebrated.

When WDFW initially looked at the trail project, they noted there was potential to improve the creek for salmon habitat.

The volunteers had observed adult coho and chum salmon trying to get into the creek from Puget Sound, but after swimming about 250 feet through pipes and under concrete, were stopped by an impassable barrier at the railroad tracks.

The city has completed removal of two fish passage barriers using baffles and a fish ladder, realigned a portion of the stream channel, and put weirs in the small pond outlet channel to allow juvenile salmon to get into the site’s pond.

During October through November, expect to see adult coho salmon migrating upstream, through the fish ladder and into coho spawning habitat.

You may see adult chum salmon using the channel below the fish ladder.

Watch at the fish ladder by walking the volunteer constructed bridge and trail along the creek – you can’t miss adult coho making their way up the ladder. Coho are awesome jumpers.

While you’re on the bridge, look in the little side channel; juvenile cutthroat trout have been seen there and juvenile salmon will use that channel to access the pond.

Now Lower Japanese Gulch provides a well-maintained trail for runners and walkers, an area of native plants and forest for animal creatures, and salmon habitat above Mukilteo Lane.

How much better can it get?

Well, taking the current channel from Puget Sound to Mukilteo Lane out of pipes and restoring the stream would be amazing, as well as acquiring the privately owned portion of upper Japanese Gulch – hope you all voted to do that.

Stay tuned – there is more to come.

Janet Carroll is a member of the Mukilteo Wildlife Habitat Project. After two years of getting landowners to certify their yards as wildlife habitat and conducting educational activities, Mukilteo has been certified as a National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat.

The group continues their commitment to wildlife by creating and enhancing wildlife habitat in Mukilteo and connecting residents with nature. For more information on the project, go to, contact the group at or 425-514-5979.

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