The land managed by SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve encompasses a complex wetland system and upland forests in, rapidly urbanizing, Southeast King County.
Protection of natural lands not only retains habitat for Washington’s native plants and wildlife, but also offers humans benefits through ecological services like carbon storage, groundwater recharge, flood and drought mitigation, and stormwater filtration.
Who Lives at SHADOW?
The animals of Western Washington depend on wetlands for critical support. Wetlands provide food and shelter for wildlife during their most vulnerable points – migration, breeding, and nesting. According to the King County, over 200 species of Washington’s wildlife require wetlands to survive.
When you visit SHADOW, our wildlife residents will be well aware of your arrival! Although spotting some of our larger inhabitants requires patience, signs of life are all around. Whether you spot holes drilled in deadwood by a pillated wood pecker, scratches left on the bark of a western red cedar by a cougar, or owl pellets scattered along the trail; keep your eyes peeled for signs of SHADOW’s wild residents.
SHADOW’s Wetland Complex
Shadow Lake Bog
The famous Shadow Lake Bog is the jewel and founding inspiration of the Nature Preserve. This 5,000-year-old, peat-moss bog is a remnant of the Puget Lobe Glacier, which once covered the majority of Western Washington. Walking SHADOW’s half-mile (roundtrip) boardwalk trail is a one-of-a-kind experience that allows visitors to travel back in time through this historic habitat. The boardwalk is a highly accessible three-foot wide trail, with mesh-grate over-lay. Unfortunately, dogs are not able to walk on the boardwalk, as the grate will hurt their paws.
In the shallow areas at the start of the boardwalk, the peat layer beneath your feet is approximately 6 to 12 feet deep, while farther down the trail the peat is over 45 feet deep. The bog’s unique soil and water qualities mean that it is home to plants found nowhere else in Washington! These bog-obligate plants include the carnivorous Pacific Sundew plant, Bog Laurel, Labrador Tea, and Bog Cranberry.
Bog Laurel, Labrador Tea photo by patty capps
carnivorous Pacific Sundew
Brush up on your bog vocabulary before you come:
Wetland- An area that is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands commonly include marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens.
Bog- A type of wetland made up of acid-loving, sphagnum moss. Sphagnum moss releases tannins and acids that seep into the groundwater, creating a highly acidic environment.
Peat- Peat is a nutrient-rich soil type formed by the compression of several layers of sphagnum moss growing over one-another. Peat is familiar to many people as a potting mix for house plants, or as an energy source, similar to coal.
Hummocks- Rolling green mounds that make up the bog floor. Hummocks are formed as moss grows over organic debris that are unable to decompose in the bog’s acidic environment and from collapses, which occur under the weight of layers of water-saturated moss.
Extend the Boardwalk
SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve is hard at work scouting the extension of our famous boardwalk trail. Extending the trail expands community access to the Nature Preserve’s grounds – adding four more habitat types to a standard walk through the bog. It is important to the staff of the Nature Preserve that we maintain the highly accessible nature of this trail.
Lakefront and Scrub/shrub Wetland
Along the banks of Shadow Lake, shrubby vegetation lines the shore. This low-growing vegetation shades the banks of the lake, cools the water, and supports invertebrates and other life. Look for salmonberry, Douglas spirea, willows, and red osier dogwood growing along the sides of the bank. Scrub/shrub wetlands are ideal locations to spot local birds, as they nest and fish in this area. This area is great for seeing mammal tracks as well, as the wetlands are a source of drinking water. The soil in this area of the Nature Preserve is flooded during the growing season with still, standing water.
SHADOW’s Upland Forests
The Woods property is one of the largest habitats stewarded by SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve, representing approximately 42 acres of land, perched above the scrub/shrub wetlands of the lakefront property. This habitat is composed of a mixture of second-growth forest and a few old-growth trees. A walk along the Woods Trail offers views of mature western red cedar trees, sword ferns, and salmonberry growing along the side of seasonal streams. The headwaters of Jenkins Creek also originates in this area, carrying cool clean water into through Soos Creek and the Green River, out to the Puget Sound through Elliott Bay.
The Alder Grove
The Alder Grove site represents approximately 10 acres and experienced a complex history before coming under SHADOW’s stewardship. The area was clear-cut for logging in the 1990s. Volunteer alders grew up amongst the weeds, overcrowded and in high competition for the limited-resources. After this, replanting of conifer trees largely failed and invasive Himalayan Blackberry and English Holly thrived in the disturbed site. Since SHADOW acquired the property in 2005, volunteers have slowly chipped away at the invasive plants. Throughout the next several years, the Nature Preserve has a large-scale restoration project in progressthat aids natural forest succession to return this land to its potential.
The Native Plant Garden
Installed in 2014 by the Tahoma Green Team, our Native Plant Garden serves as a demonstration site for landowners interested in using native trees and shrubs in their landscaping. The site is maintained by volunteers like you who keep the beds free of weeds, plant native species, and water our bare root stock throughout the summer.
Native Plants in the garden:
- Red flowering currant
- Fragrant Currant
- Red Osier Dogwood
- Ocean Spray
- Nootka rose
- Oso berry
- Blue elderberry
- Red elderberry
- Low Oregon grape
- Coastal strawberry
- Trailing Blackberry