The Sauk River along the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area.
The Sauk River along the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area.

The Sauk River is the largest tributary of the Skagit River and is used by all five salmon species, cutthroat trout, steelhead and native char. Over the last two decades, the Sauk River has been actively migrating laterally toward the west in the vicinity of Bryson Road, threatening to erode property, homes, and the county road. Flood events in the past have resulted in rip-rap armoring being placed along the river bank at the end of Bryson Road. These projects have failed and been rebuilt repeatedly, causing negative impacts to salmon habitat. Rip-rap along the river bank edge has a negative impact to salmon habitat because it simplifies bank edge complexity, increases flow velocities, and impacts the riparian zone, thereby reducing shade, large woody debris input to the river, and cover. Rip-rap also limits connectivity of the river with the floodplain and side channels, and reduces the formation of off-channel habitat that occurs naturally through the process of channel migration.

In order to end this cycle of repeated rip-rap placement and to protect salmon habitat, the Skagit River System Cooperative (SRSC) secured funding through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for acquisition and restoration of five Bryson Road parcels totaling 52.3 acres along the Sauk River. The parcels were acquired in 2008-2009 and placed into ownership of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe. A deed of right to the State of Washington was placed on them to ensure permanent conservation status. In addition, the 20.1 acre Four Cedars B parcel already owned by the tribe was also placed into conservation status with a deed of right. Five acres of the property were used to provide matching contribution for the grant. All six parcels, which total 72.4 acres, have become what is known as the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area. From 2008-2009, several restoration actions took place, including removal of human structures (houses, outbuildings, septic systems, utilities, and trash), removal of 450 feet of rip-rap and road fill that was blocking a historic side channel, removal of 2 fish barrier culverts, and planting over 20 acres with native vegetation.

Channel migration along the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area, 1949-2009.
Channel migration along the Sauk-Suiattle Conservation Area, 1949-2009.
Restoration actions at the Bryson Property.
Restoration actions at the project site.


Project Status/Timeline
The Bryson Road Acquisitions and Restoration were completed by SRSC in 2008-2009. Monitoring and stewardship of the site are ongoing.

Primary Project Contact
Devin Smith – Senior Restoration Ecologist

Funding Sources
Skagit River System Cooperative
SRFB – Salmon Recovery Funding Board

Project Partners
Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe
Skagit County
USDA – Forest Service (USFS)