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Conserving wildlife habitat, agricultural and forest lands, scenic open space, wetlands, and shorelines for the benefit of our community and as a legacy for future generations.

Big Lake Wetlands Property

Property Description

Enjoy Big Lake Wetlands Conservation area by boat. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

The Big Lake Wetlands property was purchased by the Skagit Land Trust from two separate land owners in 2016 and preserves 67 acres of critical wetland habitat at the south end of Big Lake. This area comprises the only non-developed shoreline remaining on Big Lake. 

Funds to purchase and restore this land were provided by several sources, including a Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant, a North Americans Wetlands Conservation Act grant (appropriated through the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife), and an Environmental Protection Agency grant (through the WA Department of Ecology). Donations from members of the Big Lake community contributed over $45,000 for the project. 

Waterlilies blooming in the spring at Big Lake Wetlands Conservation Area. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.


The Big Lake Wetlands conservation area preserves some of the largest remaining intact wetlands in the Nookachamps watershed. The wetlands are formed where Lake Creek (flowing from Lake McMurray) enters Big Lake. The property plays an important role in the local hydrology by providing area for standing surface water, water filtration and habitat as well as serving as a critical recharge zone for groundwater. Pictured below: aerial photograph of Big Lake by photographer Chris Farrow. The water levels of Big Lake fluctuate seasonlly. 

Aerial photograph of Big Lake. Photograph by Chris Farrow.

The combination of extensive emergent scrub shrub and forested wetlands, with primarily intact native vegetation, as well as the numerous braided creeks running through the wetlands, provide breeding and feeding areas for numerous neo-tropical migrant birds and waterfowl as well as resident bird species.

Primary conservation features of this property include steelhead and salmon habitat. Steelhead habitat on the property was identified as a priority by the Skagit Watershed Council and a portion of the funding for the acquisition was provided through the WA Salmon Recovery Funding Board.  

The creeks themselves hold high quality steelhead and Coho habitat. 90% of the Big Lake Wetlands Conservation area is considered Washington State Priority Aquatic Freshwater Wetlands Habitat. The wetlands area provides habitat for several species listed under the Endangered Species Act in Washington State including Bull Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Coho Salmon, Rainbow Trout and Steelhead. 

Amphibian Monitoring

A volunteer measures water quality during amphibian monitoring project at Big Lake Wetlands Conservation Area, March 2018. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

A large portion of the on-site wetland is classified as "Temperate Pacific Freshwater Emergent Marsh," an "imperiled" ecosystem in Washington State. In 2014, the Skagit Land Trust began a citizens science program monitoring amphibian concentration and diversity in several properties with suitable wetland habitat. Amphibian monitoring in Big Lake Wetlands began in 2017. Photographs below document amphibian monitoring efforts in Big Lake Wetlands in March of 2018. 

Volunteers measure water quality and biological diversity during an amphibian monitoring citizen science project at Big Lake Wetlands Conservation Area, March 2018. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

A primary goal of the amphibian surveys is to search for evidence of the Oregon Spotted Frog, listed on the Endangered Species List by Washington State in 1997. (It is a candidate species for federal listing.) Historically, Oregon spotted frogs were found within Washington from the Canadian border south to the Columbia River near Vancouver, and in a few marshes east of the Cascade Mountains. This distribution has been dramatically reduced and Oregon spotted frogs are now known to reproduce in about 12 locations in three counties: Whatcom, Thurston, and Klickitat. There is no definitive evidence of Oregon Spotted Frogs in Skagit County. 

Big Lake Wetlands Amphibian Monitoring project, March 2018. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff

Click here for a link to information about our land stewards for this site.


Big Lake Wetlands Conservation Area is located south of the community of Big Lake in the Nookachamps watershed. The property is immediately surrounded by agricultural and rural residential lands, with forest lands to the east and west. Access via land is very challenging. Access by boat is possible. The community of Big Lake lies to the north, and development surrounds the majority of Big Lake. Historical arial photography suggests the property that comprises the Big Lake Wetlands Conservation Area has never been developed, beyond a small boardwalk extending through a portion of the property to a dock on the shoreline. 

Click here for a Google map of Big Lake.

The Skagit Land Trust allows only limited low-impact public access. Currently there are no developed access points; accessing the property by foot is challenging due to thick vegetation and deep channels and pools. It is possible to visit the shoreline along Big Lake via boat.

Please contact the Skagit Land Trust at (360) 428-7878 for more information.

Early morning fog covers meadows in the Big Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in December. Photograph credit: Skagit Land Trust staff.

How to Get There

The nearest boat launch is the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife boat launch at the midpoint of Big Lake, along Big Lake Road. Access by road is not available.

Property Info

  • Type: Trust-Owned
  • Location: Big Lake
  • Acreage: 67 acres
  • Date Added: April 2016
  • Please visit this property!

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