Thornton Creek

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Thornton Creek
Thornton Creek Meadowbrook Seattle2.JPG
Country United States
State Washington
County King
Source Jackson Park Golf Course
 - location Seattle
 - coordinates 47°43′45″N 122°19′13″W / 47.72917°N 122.32028°W / 47.72917; -122.32028 [1]
Mouth Lake 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]
Length 18 mi (29 km) [2]
Basin 12.1 sq mi (31 km2) [3]
Discharge for USGS gage 12128000, river mile 0.25
 - average 11.3 cu ft/s (0.32 m3/s) [3]
 - max 129 cu ft/s (3.65 m3/s)
 - min 0.39 cu ft/s (0.01 m3/s)
Location of the mouth of Thornton Creek in Washington

Thornton Creek is 18 miles (29 km) of urban creeks and tributaries from southeast Shoreline through northeast Seattle to Lake Washington. The creek is the largest watershed in Seattle, draining a 12-square-mile (31 km2) region of relatively dense biodiversity for an urban setting,[4] home to frogs, newts, ducks, other birds, and an occasional beaver, in addition to over 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 Meadowbrook and Matthews Beach neighborhoods, emptying 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. Prior to European settlement, Native Americans lived around Lake Washington. One of the eighteen historic home sites was identified near the mouth of Thornton Creek.[11] Early in the 1900s the creek was a spawning ground for fish (at least five species of Pacific salmon and trout), as well as habitat for insects, amphibians, muskrats, bats, coyotes, and birds.[4] The areas surrounding the creek were developed without regard for the importance of maintaining habitat and a riparian corridor; species' diversity declined, and the creek became a typical degraded urban watershed.[12] Storm water retention, sites restoration, an Environmental Learning Center adjacent to a school, and a fish ladder contributed to restoration and the return of native plants and wildlife.[13]

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 initiated[6][15] and have had some success working with the City of Seattle and developers toward daylighting parts of the buried creek.[16] Organizations of citizens have cleaned up adjacent 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. ^ The 18 mile length figure includes all of Thornton Creek's tributaries.
  3. ^ a b "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
  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


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]