Thornton Creek

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Thornton Creek
Thornton Creek Meadowbrook Seattle2.JPG
Thornton Creek is located in Washington (state)
Thornton Creek
Location of the mouth of Thornton Creek in Washington
Thornton Creek is located in the United States
Thornton Creek
Thornton Creek (the United States)
CountryUnited States
Physical characteristics
SourceJackson Park Golf Course
 ⁃ locationSeattle
 ⁃ coordinates47°43′45″N 122°19′13″W / 47.72917°N 122.32028°W / 47.72917; -122.32028[1]
MouthLake Washington
 ⁃ coordinates
47°41′42″N 122°16′17″W / 47.69500°N 122.27139°W / 47.69500; -122.27139Coordinates: 47°41′42″N 122°16′17″W / 47.69500°N 122.27139°W / 47.69500; -122.27139[1]
Length18 mi (29 km)[2]
Basin size12.1 sq mi (31 km2)[3]
 ⁃ locationUSGS gage 12128000, river mile 0.25[3]
 ⁃ average11.3 cu ft/s (0.32 m3/s)[3]
 ⁃ minimum0.39 cu ft/s (0.011 m3/s)
 ⁃ maximum129 cu ft/s (3.7 m3/s)

Thornton Creek is 18 miles (29 km) of urban creeks and tributaries from southeast Shoreline through northeast Seattle to Lake Washington. Its 12-square-mile (31 km2) watershed, the largest in Seattle, exhibits relatively dense biodiversity for an urban setting;[4] it is home to frogs, newts, ducks, other birds, and an occasional beaver, in addition to more than 200,000 people.[5] From west of Jackson Park Golf Course in Shoreline,[6] from Sunny Walter-Pillings Pond[7] in Licton Springs–North College Park,[8] and north Northgate[9] Thornton Creek flows through Maple Leaf and Lake City, including the Victory Heights, Meadowbrook, and Matthews Beach neighborhoods, and empties into the lake at Matthews Beach Park.

Habitat and stewardship[edit]

Thornton Creek flows through Meadowbrook Pond,[10] visited by migratory birds and an occasional transient beaver or coyote. Before European settlement, Native Americans lived around Lake Washington. One of the 18 historic home sites was identified near the mouth of Thornton Creek.[11] Early in the 1900s, the creek was a spawning ground for at least five species of Pacific salmon and trout, as well a habitat for insects, amphibians, muskrats, bats, coyotes, and birds.[4] The areas surrounding the creek were developed without regard for that habitat and the riparian corridor; species' diversity declined, and the creek became a typical degraded urban watershed.[12] Storm water retention, sites restoration, an Environmental Learning Center next to a school, and a fish ladder contributed to restoration and the return of native plants and wildlife.[13]

Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel[edit]

For many decades, much of the stream has run through culverts, notably under the parking lot of Northgate Mall. Building on gradual successes in restoration,[7][14] activist neighbors began[6][15] working with the City of Seattle and developers toward daylighting parts of the buried creek.[16]

In 2004, the City of Seattle purchased the 2.4-acre (0.97 ha) parking lot from Northgate Mall and began building the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel. Opened in 2009, it achieved several community goals in limited space: integrating a water-quality facility, providing a diverse housing mix, and allowing public open space. It receives and treats runoff from 680 acres (280 ha) by providing a multilayered landscape of native plants that also serves as an amenity for surrounding private development.[17]

Organizations of citizens have cleaned up nearby wetlands, educated the public about stream health and quality of neighborhood life, and rallied to bring more of the creek to daylight. Many restoration projects in Seattle have been in some way connected to or inspired by Thornton Creek.[5]

Neighborhoods of the Thornton Creek watershed[edit]

Thornton Creek near Meadowbrook Pond
The Thornton Creek glacial erratic located southwest of 17th Ave NE and NE 104th St., in Seattle Parks' Kingfisher Natural Area

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Thornton Creek
  2. ^ Includes all of Thornton Creek's tributaries.
  3. ^ a b c "Water Resources Data-Washington Water Year 2005; Lake Washington Basins" (PDF). USGS. Retrieved 3 August 2009.
  4. ^ a b Brokaw
  5. ^ a b Dolan & True, p. 223
  6. ^ a b Hodson
  7. ^ a b Walter
  8. ^ Bowditch, Wang, & Wilson
  9. ^ Boyer
  10. ^ Meadowbrook Pond Archived December 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Thornton Creek (Site 0434)". Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2007-12-24.
  12. ^ Mapes, Lynda (December 28, 2007). "Urban streams in sad shape, report finds". The Seattle Times.
  13. ^ Seattle Public Utilities staff, "Thornton Creek".
  14. ^ "Otter and Spawning Salmon Sighted in Thornton Creek". Archive of 'The Seattle Press'. The Seattle Press. 2000-10-18. Retrieved 2006-04-21.
  15. ^ Thornton Creek Alliance
  16. ^ Mulady
  17. ^ SvR Design Company (2009-10-28), Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel Final Report (PDF), retrieved 2015-09-17


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]