Which Watershed Do I Live in?

A watershed, or basin, is an area of land that drains to the same point. For example, the Puget Sound watershed is a big one and covers most of Western Washington! There can be several smaller watersheds within a larger watershed. For example, most of the eastside of Seattle first drains into Lake Washington, and then Lake Washington drains into Puget Sound. In Burien, we have seven small watersheds that all drain into Puget Sound. However, they all first drain into a local creek, which is usually what the watershed is named after. That local creek then drains into Puget Sound.

All the rain that falls on your residence will first try to be soaked up by your yard, rain garden, or rain barrel. After those natural “sponges” are completely full, the excess rain will runoff your property and eventually make it into your local creek while picking up excess pesticides, fertilizers, oil, motor fluids, dog poop, and soap along the way. These contaminants flow through your local creek before they enter Puget Sound. 

Burien Watershed Map

Type your address into the search bar of the map to find out which Burien watershed you live in. Once you’ve discovered your home’s watershed, match the name to the watershed description below the map to learn more.

Miller-Walker Watershed

The Miller-Walker watershed—commonly referred to as the Miller-Walker Basin—spans approximately eight square miles of land within Burien, Normandy Park, SeaTac and unincorporated King County. Miller and Walker Creeks flow for approximately six and two miles respectively before joining and flowing into Puget Sound. The Miller-Walker Basin is home to more than 30,000 residents. Urban development has significantly modified the watershed.

Miller and Walker Creeks are both salmon-bearing streams. Salmon are the Pacific Northwest equivalent of the “canary in the coal mine.” Health of the salmon population is anindicator of the overall health of our watershed. For the past eight years, the Highline Community Salmon Investigation (CSI)—a volunteer driven program—has monitored local coho and chum salmon populations. The program provides not only information on trends in salmon abundance, but also tracks the frequency with which adult coho returning to Miller and Walker Creeks die before they are able to spawn, a phenomenon referred to as “pre-spawn mortality.”

Research indicates that contaminated stormwater runoff is the culprit behind elevated levels of pre-spawn mortality observed in urban creeks. In some years, pre-spawn mortality in the Miller-Walker Basin has exceeded 75 percent.

Learn more about the Miller-Walker Basin and get involved in community efforts to improve the watershed

Salmon Creek Watershed

The Salmon Creek watershed is commonly referred to as the Salmon Creek Basin. Basin is another word for watershed. The Salmon Creek drainage basin is approximately two square miles. There are no longer any salmon swimming up Salmon Creek to spawn; however, the creek provides habitat for juvenile coho salmon released by Trout Unlimited each January. Current conditions in the creek prevent salmon from swimming upstream and spawning as they once did.

The Shorewood on the Sound Community Club has adopted Salmon Creek Ravine. For the past several years, the community group has conducted habitat restoration through removal of invasive plants and installation of native plants. Maintaining a healthy and diverse native forest community in Salmon Creek Ravine will ensure that this valuable ecosystem continues to provide benefits for both people and wildlife in the future.

Currently, red fox, coyotes, otters, raccoons, muskrat, bats, chipmunks, and squirrels are also reported to live in Salmon Creek. Birds or signs of birds, like oil pellets, indicate that wood peckers, flickers, jays, crows, sparrows, wood warblers, flycatchers, belted kingfishers, eagles, owls, osprey and hawks all inhabit Salmon Creek.

Learn more about the Salmon Creek Basin.

Puget Sound Watershed

(Lower Puget Sound-Burien North, Lower Puget Sound-Burien South, and Lower Puget Sound-Normandy Park)

Even though these three Burien watersheds drain directly into Puget Sound through small, seasonal streams, it probably isn’t a surprise to any Burien resident that all watersheds in Burien eventually drain into Puget Sound. But did you know that most watersheds in Western Washington drain into it Puget Sound? It’s the largest estuary in the continental United States by water volume.

Water flows into the Sound through creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes. According to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), 633 of these streams, rivers, and lakes are impaired by poor water quality, estimating that millions of pounds of toxic pollution flow into Puget Sound each year. Ecology also estimates stormwater that runs off paved roads and driveways, rooftops, yards, and other surfaces contributes more pollution to Puget Sound than any other source.

What does that mean for aquatic life in Puget Sound? According to NOAA, Puget Sound southern resident orcas have levels of pollutants in their blubber that are known to negatively affect marine mammal health. They are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world.

Learn more about orcas and Puget Sound.

Seola Creek Watershed

The Seola Creek watershed consists of areas of the City of Seattle, unincorporated King County and the City of Burien. The Seola Creek Drainage Basin is an urbanized area that was largely developed before stormwater runoff quantity and quality controls were required. Currently, urban stormwater runoff from this area flows directly to Puget Sound without benefit of water quality treatment. King County and City of Seattle have plans to change that.

Learn about the Seola Creek Basin Retrofit Project.

Des Moines Creek Watershed

The Des Moines Creek watershed covers 5.8 square miles of urban area. Des Moines Creek itself is approximately 3.5 miles long and flows from an elevation of about 350 feet to where it meets Puget Sound at Des Moines Creek Beach Park.

Fish are still found throughout the stream system in small to moderate numbers. Resident and sea-run cutthroat trout, coho salmon, steelhead, and possibly pink salmon have all been observed recently in Des Moines Creek. Fish production within Des Moines Creek is currently limited by a number of factors. Barriers to fish passage severely limit the ability of salmon to reach potential spawning areas above Marine View Drive. High stream flows and resulting erosion and sedimentation have caused the loss of many naturally occurring pools, limiting habitat and reducing the number of young salmon that successfully migrate out to salt water. Low stream flow levels in summer further limit the amount of habitat available. Water quality problems such as elevated water temperatures and lowered levels of dissolved oxygen in certain areas stress fish and further reduce successful spawning, particularly among native salmon.

Wildlife is still relatively common along the stream corridor. Red fox, raccoon, and muskrat have been observed over several field seasons. Bald eagles, herons, and kingfishers have also been seen regularly and suggest that a reasonably healthy fish population still exists.

To find out about ongoing volunteer opportunities with Friends of Des Moines Creek, please email LauraHartema@yahoo.com. Please include “Volunteer” in your subject line.

Learn about the Des Moines Creek Watershed.

Green/Duwamish River Watershed

The Green/Duwamish River Watershed is 93 miles long and covers nearly 500 square miles, stretching from one end of King County to the other, from the Cascades to Elliott Bay. Native Americans have used this watershed since ancient times.

The abundance of this watershed’s natural resources has long been recognized and tapped to support the local communities. Ancestors of all native people of Western Washington depended on fish, animal, and plant resources and traveled widely to harvest these resources. In the winter, when travel was difficult, they lived in villages along the watercourses in this watershed relying upon stored foods and local resources. In the summer, they dispersed throughout the watershed and moved to summer camps and resource gathering areas, where they joined with families from other winter villages in fishing, clamming, hunting, gathering, and other pursuits.

There are sites within the watershed that have been polluted, and some areas continue to receive harmful pollution. The land itself has been dramatically transformed over the past 100 years. Both human and wildlife habitat here have been significantly altered, with vegetation removal, hydrological modification to the rivers and their tributaries, and land converted to impervious (hard) surfaces that is no longer able to absorb and filter polluted stormwater.

The combined effects of these changes are shown today by struggling salmon runs, sediment contamination in the Lower Duwamish, health advisories on consumption of certain fish and shellfish, increased polluted stormwater runoff, air quality challenges and the threatened status of various aquatic and terrestrial species in the watershed. Today’s improvements in land development standards, stormwater management, contaminant cleanups and human behavior changes will shape the future of this watershed throughout the next century.

Learn about the Green/Duwamish Watershed.