Nisqually Watershed

Location of the Nisqually Watershed in Washington State.  Map courtesy of the EPA.The Nisqually watershed covers 460,172 acres within Lewis, Pierce, and Thurston counties. The river flows from the foothills of the Cascades to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Precipitation averages 35 to 60 inches annually in the lower agricultural areas, but can be much higher near Mount Rainier, which sometimes receives over 100 inches in a year. Most precipitation falls in the winter, leaving streams dependent on groundwater in the summer.

The Nisqually Delta, where the river meets the waters of Puget Sound, is made up of salt marsh and mudflats. Forestry is the primary use in the Nisqually basin, but agriculture is also well represented. The lower Nisqually is one of the most heavily farmed areas in the western part of the state.

EPA watershed profile

Related WRIA: 11

All Puget Sound WRIAs


Department of Ecology

Natural Resources Conservation Service



report cover photo

Monitoring and adaptive management of the Nisqually Delta after tidal marsh restoration: Restoring ecosystem function for salmon

This 2009 report by the Nisqually Tribe establishes key measures of restoration development, habitat processes, and Chinook salmon response for the largest delta restoration project in the Pacific Northwest.

Nisqually Reserve Fish Sampling March 2012. Photo: Michael Grilliot, DNR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

No salmon left behind: The importance of early growth and freshwater restoration

The growth and survival of young salmon in streams, river deltas and floodplains are seen as crucial pieces of the salmon recovery puzzle. In part two of this two-part series, researchers at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle say the complexities of the salmon life cycle require new coordination among scientists.


Nisqually Tribe

The Nisqually tribe has over 650 enrolled members. Most live on or near the reservation, which was established by the Medicine Creek Treaty in 1854. According to legend, the Nisqually people migrated from the Great Basin thousands of years ago, crossing the Cascades and settling in what is now Skate Creek. The tribe is one of the largest employers in Thurston County.

Nisqually Tribe Area of Concern: