Padden Creek drains an area of approximately six square miles, originating in the Chuckanut Mountains south of the city and east of Lake Padden. The stream flows northwest from Lake Padden for approximately 2.7 miles before discharging into Bellingham Bay. Connelly Creek is the only major tributary that enters downstream of Lake Padden. Padden Creek historically provided approximately five miles of accessible salmon habitat downstream of Lake Padden (Williams 1976). According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Padden Creek currently supports runs of chum and coho salmon, and occasionally is used by migrating Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Spawning surveys have also documented a population of resident and sea-run cutthroat trout as well as occasional use by steelhead trout.
The main stem of Padden Creek, as well as its largest tributary, Connelly Creek, travel through residential, commercial and public areas. Neighbors, business owners and restoration crews work to provide and protect the diverse riparian zone along the creek. Large grassy areas are being replaced with native vegetation. In 2003 the Storm and Surface Water Utility fee funded fish passage improvements on three culverts in the Padden Creek watershed.
The City of Bellingham Environmental Resources and Parks Departments are working in Fairhaven Park to restore Padden Creek’s stream channel and banks. An old footpath has been re-routed to limit its impact on the creek. The area bordering the footpath will be replanted with native vegetation, and in stream work to reduce stream bank erosion will be done in 2010.
An additional in stream habitat enhancement project is planned for the area between 24th and 30th Streets in 2009.