Puget Sound Innovation Stories

Union River Estuary Restoration

Restoring habitat and connecting people and salmon

The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife collaborated to return ocean tides to restore salt marsh habitat in the lower Union River, which is part of the larger Lynch Cove estuary in South Hood Canal. The project breached a dike in two places to allow the daily tide to return to the marsh. A total of 1.7 miles of tidal channels were constructed and 9,000 native plants were planted. Federally listed Hood Canal summer chum lay their eggs in the Union River and the system is considered a strong-hold for regional salmon recovery efforts. Juvenile chum and Chinook salmon depend on estuaries during early marine life for food and refuge from predators. Estuaries provide salmon a gradual transition from freshwater to saltwater habitat. Large numbers of waterfowl use Lynch Cove and its tidelands. Pedestrian bridges were built over the dike breaches and a pedestrian trail was extended one half-mile into the project area. The project involved citizen volunteers to collect data about salmon spawning and carcasses to inform recovery efforts.

What worked:

  • Restoring 31 acres of salt marsh and constructing 1.7 miles of tidal channels increased rearing and foraging habitat for juvenile salmon.
  • Planting 9,000 native plants stabilized the sediment, cools the water, and provides insect food for salmon and habitat for native birds.
  • Installing two pedestrian bridges and extending the Theler Trails by half a mile improved access to the shoreline for people.
  • Engaging volunteers in monitoring salmon spawning and carcass surveys deepens understanding of food web connections.


  • Restored tidal exchange will continue to naturally build habitat for fish and wildlife.
  • Tidal channels provide habitat for young salmon to acclimate to the change from freshwater to saltwater.
  • Salmon will have more habitat to feed and grow before going out to the ocean.
  • People can access marsh habitat trails for running, walking or birding.
  • Citizen science volunteers will observe how many salmon return to lay their eggs each year.


  • Congressional District: 6
  • Legislative District: 35
  • WRIA: 15
  • County: Kitsap


  • Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Private property owners
  • Private citizen volunteers

Project Funding:

  • Salmons Recovery Funding Board
  • PSAR

More Info

Publish Date: July 5, 2019
Category: Estuaries | Salmon
Congressional Districts: Congressional Dist. 6
Legislative Districts: Legislative Dist. 35
Counties: Kitsap
Habitat Types: