Where ever you are while reading this, imagine yourself pouring a cup of water right beneath you (or imagine yourself going outside so you don’t make a mess on the floor). Once that water seeps into the ground, where does it go? Eventually it will go to the ocean but to get there it travels by streams, lakes, and even saturates through the water table. The area that all the water collects to one place is a watershed.
This year students in the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth Program have been focusing on the watersheds all around them. They have been everywhere imaginable in this journey: from the sub-alpine during Mountain School to getting soaked at Rasar State Park. But in late September they got to experience firsthand where some of this water ends: Bellingham Bay.
Our adventure started by arriving at the Bellingham Community Boating Center located in the southern part of town. After Andrea (a former Norther Cascades Institute graduate residency student) gave us a basic orientation to both our kayaks and wetsuits, she went into detail about the watershed we were currently in. For these students the Skagit River is the watershed they call home but at the center we were in the Lake Padden watershed.
The water travels down from the mountains in the east and slows down tremendously in the lake. After leaving the lake it travels down to meet the ocean. But where the fresh and salt water meet a special environment is created: a lagoon. Somewhat salty, somewhat fresh, and somewhat affected by tides, this little habitat provides perfect space from some species who can’t decide between fresh or salt water.
After our orientation we carried all of our equipment to shore, and headed out! For some of these students it was their first time on kayaks or on the ocean on something smaller than a ferry. You would not be able to tell that, however, since each boat flew across the water with ease! We only had one boat flip (and I think he just wanted to test whether the wetsuit would really work or not).
From the boating center we headed north towards the Boardwalk in Fairhaven. I do have to apologize; I was so memorized by the scenery that I forgot to take pictures! Between the seagulls flying overhead, the barnacle covered rocks, and the perfect cloud watching weather, we could have all just sat on the water and watched if paddling wasn’t so much fun!
But all good things must end, and we eventually headed back toward the boating center after having lunch on the beach. What better way to learn about the watersheds we live in than to explore all the places our water goes!