Exploring the banks of the Stillaguamish

ARLINGTON — As a small group of hikers walked back to a nearby trail after exploring the shores of the Stillaguamish River, Bill Blake posed a question.

“What types of animals would you see in a riparian area like this?” he asked.

Answers flew from the nature wanderers — deer and cougars were popular suggestions.

“Yup,” said Blake, city of Arlington’s natural resource manager. “Pretty much anywhere an animal has food, water and shelter to survive”

All three requirements were on display Aug. 21 as participants followed Blake from Twin Rivers Park to the river. About 15 nature walkers of all ages used their eyes, ears and noses during the hour-long hike, which was the first walk organized by Blake.

“We had a good turnout,” Blake said. “Anywhere from (age) 8 to 80.”

Nature enthusiasts gathered at the park at 3 p.m. and set off toward the river’s banks after Blake gave a short history of the area.

Blake passed out an overhead map of the location, showing what it looked like in 1933 compared to 2007. Since the 1930s, a thicket of trees and brush have sprouted and grown, turning what was once a gravel bar into a lush forest.

Blake pointed out various species of trees and shrubs as the group wandered toward the river. He showed native cottonwood and hazelnut trees and non-native species such as Japanese knotweed.

He also brought a handful of older photographs from the early 1900s, including one of a two-story hotel constructed near the river.

The hotel has since been destroyed by flooding, but remnants of the structure — as well as from native American tribes — remain in the area, he said.

Nine-year-old Adam Boylan, a Cub Scout from Arlington, was there with his mom and fellow scouts.

Boylan, decked in a green T-shirt to match his surroundings, spent the hour either asking Blake about the area or digging in the sand once the group made it to the water.

Kolby Evans, 10, was on the walk with his grandfather, Jaime Minard and great-grandfather Jim Minard.

“(Kolby) is just really into nature,” Jaime Minard said. “He can’t get enough of it.”

Upon arriving at the river, Blake pointed to a flurry of Humpy salmon jumping near the shore.

Not all of the nature walkers were interested in the surroundings. Three-year-old Samara Morrow plopped down in the sand, scooping the granules into a small container and dropping them.

“We used to hike this area before she was born,” Morrow’s grandmother Beverly Otto said. “It’s just interesting to learn about the area and where we’re at. It’s a beautiful area.”

Blake said the nature walk is intended to teach residents about their surrounding habitat, such as the riparian area near the Stillaguamish River.

“It’s a good opportunity to teach people how to be good stewards,” he said, “Hopefully we can do another one in the spring.”

Click here for more photos.

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