Interactive map brings together extensive salmon information

When I first started covering the environment for the Kitsap Sun in the early 1980s, I convinced a state fish biologist to make me a copy of a notebook containing information about salmon streams on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Winter steelhead streams in Puget Sound from SalmonScape. Map: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Winter steelhead streams in Puget Sound, as shown in SalmonScape, a GIS-based interactive map.
Map: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Hand-drawn maps of streams, both big and small, along with field notes about the migration of salmon, stream blockages and other information were listed in that notebook. Through the years, the information was updated, combined with other data and eventually transferred to electronic databases for wider access.

A few years ago, much of this little-known information was digitized into a map that could be accessed by anyone from a web browser. The map, using a geographic information system, is such a valuable tool that I wanted to make sure that readers of this blog are aware of it.

It was given the name SalmonScape, and the map shows salmon streams across the state (click “hydrography”); salmon migration by species (“fish distribution”); stream blockages (“fish passage”); and hatcheries, fish traps and major dams (“facilities”).

You can zoom in to locate the salmon stream nearest your home and track the tributaries that drain into fish-bearing streams. Click on a feature for more details. For example, you can look for culverts that might impair salmon passage to see whether the state, county or city is responsible for maintenance. The map shows blockages only on fish-bearing streams, and sometimes the blockages are the reason that upstream areas have no fish.

Several base maps are available, including topography, aerial imagery, aerial imagery with labels, streets and roads, and others. In fact, with all the GIS layers and possible base maps available, I find myself clicking things on and off to keep down the map clutter. One valuable feature is the “extent” buttons, which allow you to click back to previous map views and then return to where you left off.

You’ll find that you need to zoom in to see some features. For example, you must zoom in until the scale shows six miles or less to see facilities symbols, three miles or less to see facilities labels, two miles or less to see symbols for fish-passage barriers and one mile or less to see labels for fish-passage barriers.

The latest SalmonScape database contains information from state, federal and tribal biologists as well as other local experts, including those involved in regional fisheries enhancement groups. Plans for adding additional information are in the works. The maps have been used by planners working on land-use studies, salmon-restoration projects, road designs and endangered species issues, among others.

To understand the full range of options on the map, a help page is available.

For those on the Kitsap Peninsula interested in seeing the migration of salmon, a salmon-watching map, which includes videos from various streams, is still available online. This is a map I put together with the help of staffers at the Kitsap Sun.

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