Chuckanut Creek drains an area of approximately 7.2 square miles, originating in the Chuckanut Mountains south of the city. The stream flows south, then west for approximately 6 miles before emptying into Chuckanut Bay. There are 5 small unnamed tributaries, one that flows south out of Cedar Lake. The Chuckanut Creek basin provides approximately 8 miles of habitat for anadromous salmonids. According to WDFW, Chuckanut Creek currently supports runs of chum and coho salmon, and winter steelhead trout. Spawning surveys have also documented occasional adult Chinook salmon as well as sea run and resident cutthroat trout.
The bridge that crosses Chuckanut Creek in Arroyo Park is a great place to observe adult salmon returning to spawn and juvenile salmon heading to sea. This creek, with the largest natural run of chum in the city, is an exciting place for visitors to catch a glimpse of salmon spawning in a natural setting.
The majority of Chuckanut Creek runs through secluded backyards and a pristine city park, thus the riparian area is relatively undisturbed compared to other city streams. Chuckanut Creek is listed on Washington State Department of Ecology’s 2004 list of impaired water bodies for low levels of dissolved oxygen and high levels of fecal coliform bacteria. The City of Bellingham collects data on water quality in Chuckanut Creek each month as part of the Urban Streams Monitoring Program.