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Columbia Slough Watershed Council

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History of the Watershed

The Columbia Slough is a wonderful place.  The Slough waterways were historically utilized by native peoples for seasonal fishing and hunting and safe canoe passage. In 1805, Lewis and Clark expedition members complained they could not sleep due to the noise created by massive numbers of geese and swans, “their noise horid.” The Hudson’s Bay Company began trapping otter and beaver in 1820.  By the 1850s farming had replaced trapping as the main economic activity.

During the early 1920s, levee construction began to prevent the Columbia River’s annual spring floods.  As the area developed, what was once a wildlife-rich mosaic of sloughs, wetlands and lakes was transformed into a highly managed system of channels, agricultural lands, industrial development, and residences.

Today, this urban watershed provides recreation, greenspace, drainage, and habitat.  It is home to 4,200 businesses, 170,000 people, a marine terminal and two airports.  The watershed collects stormwater runoff, rainwater, and groundwater.  Its streams, sloughs, wetlands, grasslands and woodlands provide wildlife corridors and migratory routes for over 175 species of birds. Mink, river otter, beaver, coyote and sensitive species like Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Willow Flycatcher, and Western Pond and Painted turtles use slough habitats. Twenty eight fish species call the Columbia Slough home.

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