Puyallup Watershed

Location of the Puyallup Watershed in Washington State.  Map courtesy of the EPA.The Puyallup watershed was divided into two parts in 1988 to make management easier. The Upper Puyallup covers approximately 75 percent of the entire Puyallup river basin, draining 766 square miles between Orting, the crest of the Cascades, and the peak of Mount Rainier. Approximately 96 percent of the upper watershed is forested. Steep hillsides and glacial streams are a primary feature of the watershed, but dams and man-made diversions on the Puyallup and White rivers interrupt the water’s natural flow. The diversions significantly reduce the flow of water in the bypassed segments of the two rivers.

The Lower Puyallup is 117,000 acres, reaching from Buckley to Commencement Bay and then south to Orting. There are a number of wetlands in the lower watershed, and dense, poorly drained soils left over from the Osceola and Electron mudflows. Average precipitation in the lower watershed is 40 to 49 inches annually.

EPA watershed profile:

Related WRIA: 10

All Puget Sound WRIAs


Upper Puyallup Watershed Characterization and Action Plan


A 2010 documentary describes efforts to protect and restore the Puyallup watershed.

Water Undone: The Efforts to Save the Puyallup River Watershed

A 2010 video by the University of Washington Tacoma describes efforts to protect and restore the Puyallup watershed. 

Don Malins examines a fish during a research trip to the Duwamish estuary. Photo circa 1987. Photographer unknown.

Toxics research that changed Puget Sound history

In the 1970s and 1980s, research from a division of NOAA's Montlake Lab suddenly and irreversibly changed the way scientists and the public viewed the health of Puget Sound. Their discoveries of industrial toxics in the region's sediment-dwelling fish led to the creation of two Superfund sites, and new approaches to ecosystem management across the Sound. The man at the forefront of this research was Dr. Donald Malins, featured here as part of the Puget Sound Voices series.


Puyallup Tribe

The Puyallup Tribe lives in one of the first areas in Puget Sound that was settled by Euro-Americans. For years, they were unable to exercise their fishing rights, until the U.S. vs. Washington court decision, which allowed them access to the usual and accustomed areas.

Puyallup Tribe Area of Concern:

The Snoqualmie River. Photo copyright King County.

King County rivers and streams

The diversity of streams in the county is a reflection of the diversity of its geography. From the small rivulets that begin high in the Cascade Mountains, to the brooks that flow gently across the lowlands, to the five major rivers of the county, there are over 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) of perennial streamcourses in King County.