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Watersheds, rivers and streams

White River

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White River Watershed, King County, Washington

White River Watershed facts

Game Farm Park
Photo: The diversion wall at Game Farm Park, Auburn

Prior to 1906, the White River flowed through King County to join the Green River and ultimately discharged into Elliot Bay. In 1906, a debris jam blocked the channel of the White River and diverted all the floodwaters away from King County down the Stuck River and into the Puyallup River. The debris dam was replaced by a permanent diversion wall located at the Game Farm Park in Auburn. The White River remains in this location today.

The White River travels 68 miles and drains 494 square miles before draining into the Puyallup near the city of Sumner. Its headwaters begin where the Emmons and Fryingpan glaciers meet on the side of Mt. Rainier. As the water flows downstream, it is joined by many smaller tributaries, including Silver Creek, Huckleberry Creek and Camp Creek. The White River joins with West fork of the White River just before reaching the Greenwater River at the town of Greenwater. and together they form the boundary between the Pierce and King counties. The river continues downstream until it reaches Mud Mountain Dam (external link).

Mud Mountain Dam began operation in 1948 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is operated to control flooding in the lower Puyallup flood plain. The dam blocks fish passage but the Army Corps of Engineers uses a trap and haul system to transport fish around the dam.

Downstream of the dam, between Enumclaw and Buckley, Puget Sound Energy operates a diversion dam (completed in 1911). This dam, found upstream of the mouth of Boise Creek, redirects up to 2000 cubic feet per second of the water from the White River through a canal and flume system into Lake Tapps. The water in Lake Tapps flows through the Dieringer Powerhouse and back into White River about 20 miles downstream from the diversion dam. The water remaining in the White River after the diversion, flows through the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation, and the cities of Auburn and Pacific before joining with the Puyallup River in Sumner.

Salmon found in the White River Watershed

The White River and it's tributaries serve as spawning, rearing and transportation areas for chinook, pink, chum, and coho salmon, as well as rainbow, steelhead and cutthroat trout. The largest runs are pink and chum, which are natural, and coho, which is mixed hatchery and natural run. The native spring run chinook salmon is listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened. The White River system is also home to native char (bull trout and/or dolly varden). For more information on the Puyallup/White River salmon status, see the Salmon Habitat Limiting Factors Report for the Puyallup River Basin by the Washington Conservation Commission (external link). Be sure to also visit the Salmon and trout topics Web page.

External sites related to the White River Watershed

City of Auburn

City of Federal Way

Mount Rainier National Park

Pierce County