Viewing Chum Salmon
Buy Your License Online! Buy Your License Online!
Clark's Creek bridge

Clarks Creek (Puyallup River, South Puget Sound)

Clarks Creek is a small, spring-fed tributary to the Puyallup River. The creek flows from its headsprings near Clarks Creek Park, through the city of Puyallup, including Clarks Creek and Decoursey Parks, to the river. While chum returns to Clarks Creek are relatively small (averaging 400 fish per year from 1992-2001), spawning is confined to a relatively small portion of the stream, creating a good opportunity for viewing the fish.

The creek is accessible to salmon from the mouth to a water supply dam near the headsprings, around 3.7 miles total. The lower portion of the creek is low-gradient, soft-bottomed stream, with little suitable spawning habitat for salmon. The upper half-mile of stream, thanks in part to restoration efforts of local groups, offers ideal spawning habitat.

Clark Creek-Escapement Chart
Click to Enlarge
Clarks Creek-Average RunTiming
Click to Enlarge

To allow viewing of spawning salmon, a footbridge with viewing platforms was built by the Pierce Conservation District, with cooperation of several groups (see below). In addition, log weirs were placed in the stream using USFWS funds. The logs help to hold spawning gravel and create channel diversity for adult and juvenile salmon. An interpretive sign near the bridge explains the salmon life cycle and the purpose of habitat improvements to the creek.

Clarks Creek chum are a winter run stock, with adults returning to the stream from late November to late January, with mid-December offering the best opportunity for seeing chum. Chinook and coho salmon are also present in the stream earlier in the fall.

Clarks Creek offers the unique opportunity of viewing salmon in an easily accessible park setting. The creek is surveyed for spawning salmon each fall to provide valuable data on salmon returns. Surveyors leave behind easily recognizable flagging marking salmon redds, the term for spots in the stream bed where salmon have buried eggs. Visitors looking carefully at the stream near the flag markers will see the distinct pattern left in the gravel by spawning salmon, even after the salmon are gone (Please do not disturb the flagging or the stream bed, though!).

Information about Clarks Creek

Clark's Creek sign

Much of the area surrounding Upper Clarks Creek is within Clarks Creek Park in the City of Puyallup, open daily to visitors. Upstream of the park, much of the land is owned by the State of Washington, and is also open to visitors unless otherwise posted. The footbridge offers the best location for viewing salmon, and it is reachable by a moderate trail through the woods (often muddy in the late fall and winter) from the Clarks Creek Park parking lot, or by a short walk on gravel road from the Puyallup Trout Hatchery. The creek is visible from several other spots along nearby trails.

Purpose: Clarks Creek offers the opportunity to view spawning salmon in a natural setting, in an easily accessible city park.

When: The park is open year round, but adult salmon are generally present in varying number from late September through January, with chum salmon primarily in December.

Clark's Creek map

How to get there: Take Hwy 512 to Puyallup. Exit at Meridan St exit, and turn south. Turn right at 15th Ave SE. Turn right at 14th St SW. Easiest access to the viewing bridge is from Puyallup Trout Hatchery, which will be on the left. The bridge is to the left rear of the hatchery grounds.

Open to the public: The Puyallup Trout Hatchery parking lot is open daily from 8:00–4:30. Clarks Creek Park is open daily.

Partners: Partners in the Clarks Creek bridge construction and stream restoration included: Pierce Conservation District, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, City of Puyallup, Puyallup Tribe, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.