Fish Day – exploring Dogfish Creek and Poulsbo Marine Science Center

Exploring Poulsbo's Fish Park, the estuary where Dogfish Creek enters Liberty Bay.

If you have a weekend afternoon to wile away, this little itinerary is a fun all-about-fish outing, even though I didn’t actually plan it that way! We embarked upon an exploration of Dogfish Creek thinking we might possibly learn a bit about salmon – it is spawning season right now! After nearly a decade of hard work restoring the estuary where Dogfish Creek enters Liberty Bay, salmon numbers have been on the rise. The estuary is a place where salt water mixes with fresh water. Before a culvert under Lindvig Way was removed in 2003, it was hard for adult salmon to return to spawn, and hard for the young salmon to feed. But grant funding and lots of volunteer work at the Fish Park is finally beginning to pay off.

We started our adventure at Wilderness Park, a 12 acre park with a trail running along Dogfish Creek, the largest freshwater tributary to Liberty Bay. (The park and trail head is just opposite North Kitsap High School, #13 on the map link provided.) No evidence of fish this far uphill, as I probably should have guessed. But it was interesting anyway. The trail is an out-and-back 1.1 miles (for a total of 2.2 miles). Be prepared for a bit of slippery ground in the fall/winter/spring, and a few little hills to climb (we didn’t pay attention because it was so short, but my impression is downhill on the way out, and a bit of uphill on the way back). Set a good example for your kids and spend a minute picking up trash while you’re in there (a high schooler we bumped into said it’s from the Friday night football game hangout crowd).

Then we ventured on to Fish Park (#2 on the map linked above). The little map at the parking lot kiosk doesn’t tell you much about fish (I grabbed a local couple walking their dog for that info), but it does provide a great overview of all the trails running through the park. There is a huge network of short trails and viewing platforms totaling just over a mile of trails. It is all stroller-friendly and a great place for young kids to stretch their legs. Apparently in the Fall you can view salmon swimming upstream to spawn, especially after a heavy rain (they like the additional runoff to get more clearance over the rocks). There are several viewing platforms and informational signage explaining the importance of the estuary and the “saltwater prism”. Well worth a visit! Finish up your walk on the long boardwalk through wetlands and an alder grove – but watch out for slippery leaves on the boardwalk. One of the boys shot right down amidst tons of laughs about the slip-sliding!

We finished up our FISH DAY with a visit to the Poulsbo Marine Science Center. This donation-only center in downtown Poulsbo is really a gem. The docents are very knowledgeable and the touch tank is very accessible – there are tons of sea stars to pick up and examine. They have a resident octopus and very menacing looking wolf eel. The PMSC is open Thurs-Sun 11-4.

Finish off your fish day with lunch or dinner at JJ’s Fish House – the clam chowder is a family favorite. I found out yesterday they have not changed their very popular menu in over 12 years! The only thing they’ve done is add a fish-wich! Wow, talk about finding the right recipe for foods and sticking with it.

Sam says there should be National Fish Day. I agree – and I think that means a big lesson in governmental affairs to make that happen. We’d have to write to a Congressman or something…enjoy your adventure!

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