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Originally published Thursday, October 12, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Edmonds Marsh

Location: Edmonds. Length: Over a quarter-mile (round trip). Level of difficulty: Level paved path and boardwalk (can be slippery when wet...

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Location: Edmonds.

Length: Over a quarter-mile (round trip).

Level of difficulty: Level paved path and boardwalk (can be slippery when wet).

Setting: These alder-fringed wetlands, also known as the Union Oil Marsh, represent one of the few saltwater estuaries remaining in urban Puget Sound. Originally a 40-acre salt marsh whose ecology was affected by the daily influx of the tides, the area was cut off from seawater in the early 1960s, and development and infilling from 1963-73 shrunk the wetlands down to 23 acres. Without access to seawater, and fed by local creeks and rainwater, the wetlands evolved into a freshwater marsh. The plant life changed — the area became dominated by cattails, which are useful to wildlife but choke out native wetland plants. In 1988, it was decided to restore the flow of saltwater to the area. Since then, the marsh ecology has shifted to a more diverse habitat. Wide expanses of cattails flecked by trilling red-winged blackbirds remain in the less-saline parts of the marsh, while the saltier portions have more open-water areas and the plant life is more diverse, dominated by grasses and rushes.

Highlights: Four boardwalk stations along the brick-red-paved trail describe the marsh's history and ecology, and a timeline and aerial photo give you a sense of where you are in time and place. The area hosts more than 200 species of birds. Fall is the time to spot migrating species, while winter offers good waterfowl watching in the open areas (bird checklist posted at marsh).

Facilities: None.

Restrictions: No bicycles or skateboards.

Directions: From Interstate 5 north of Seattle, take Highway 104 and follow signs toward the Edmonds ferry dock. Note where Highway 104 branches off at the top of the hill from the road to downtown Edmonds; in exactly one mile, turn left on Dayton Street at the red light. The Harbor Square shopping center occupies the next block; take the second left into the parking lot, and drive to the back of the lot (follow signs to the Scrub a Pup store).

For more information: 425-771-0230 or

— Cathy McDonald, Special to The Seattle Times

Cathy McDonald, a Renton-based freelance writer, is a regular contributor to Northwest Weekend.

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