Monday, April 2, 2018

Whatcom-Labounty Wild Land Northwest of Bellingham

Just to the northwest of the Bellingham city limits is a swath of land between Interstate 5 and Northwest Road. From a map perspective, I have long been familiar with this area. The city designated it as an urban growth area back in the early days of the Growth Management Act in the mid 1990s. The land is underlain by Bellingham Glacial Marine Drift consisting mostly of silt and clay. Glaciomarine drift consists of silty clay soils that were deposited by melting glacial ice floating on the sea at a time near the end of the last glacial period when the local relative sea level was higher than the present (the mass of thick glacial ice that had covered the area had depressed the land surface hundreds of feet in the region).

Northwest of Bellingham, the glacial marine drift topography is a relatively hummocky landscape. I suspect the hummocky landscape was the result of underwater currents during the late stages of glacial marine deposition. Soils maps indicate the soils are Whatcom-Labounty soils. The Whatcom soils are well drained at shallow levels and wet at depth and the Labounty soils are poorly drained and tend to be wet. The poor drainage and hummocky nature of the area is such that it was poor farm land and poor forest land. The wetlands as well as very soft soils also have made it rather poor land for urban development; I estimate the area is on the order of 60 percent or more wetlands. 

The result is a swath of land at the city's edge that is wild land. While other wild lands at the city edge attract recreation, the brush, wet ground and lack of trails means a venture into this area is a brief wilderness experience even if one can hear the freeway and air planes at the nearby airport.

Start of my venture was a classic bush wack only on level ground.  

The wetlands rewarded me with an early bloomer - Lysichiton americanus (skunk cabbage).

The biggest challenging was navigating across or in some cases through areas of standing water.

Water coverage of this landscape has been increasing. Beavers in this area can go about their works relatively free of disruption. They do not bother with permits to cut trees down in forested wetlands or get hydraulic permits or dam permits.

A forested hummock raising above the wetlands as an island provided a brief spell of easy walking.

A partially blown over Douglas fir redirected the lead to a limb.

Sometime in the past fire had visited this island in the wetlands.

I did manage to get to my sample site along a particular branch of wetland drainage. Under the black organic layer the soil is stained by iron precipitate.

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