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Big Beef Creek

Map of Big Beef Creek
Aerial view of Big Beef Creek

The University of Washington's Big Beef Creek Field Research Station offers opportunities for teaching and research in freshwater and marine sciences and other environmental fields. Lower Big Beef Creek flows through a deep canyon with second growth forest typical of western Washington. The creek is relatively secluded because of the steep sides of the canyon. The predominant trees are Douglas fir, western red cedar, and alder.

A series of beaver dams has created about 20 acres of swamp and alder forest that add to the diversity of the freshwater wetlands. Emerging from the wetlands, the creek flows over a weir and into an estuary with mud flats, grassy meadows, and a small salt marsh. The estuary drains into Hood Canal through a channel crossed by a causeway (Seabeck Highway).

Beyond the causeway, the UW owns about 40 acres of tidelands--mostly mud flat, rich in marine invertebrates. In the past, the field station's primary function has been as a natural habitat for fish research for the School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences. Three species of anadromous salmonids spawn in its streams – chum, coho, stealhead.

Research and teaching activities include natural history, artificial rearing studies, and whole-life-history studies of organisms that alternate between fresh and salt water. Emphasis is on ecological studies and the effects of increasing urbanization in the Puget Sound basin.


9744 Manley Road, Seabeck, WA (east shore of Hood Canal)


400 acres


Approximately 10 acres of natural and artificial rearing facilities, freshwater and dry labs, indoor and outdoor rearing space, egg incubation/hatchery, meeting room, maintenance shed (600 sq.ft.), dry storage, 1200 gal/min pumped freshwater well system.

Guest Housing

Five one-bedroom cabins


Research grants and contracts, user fees, operating funds

Recent Usage

Research: University of Washington currently has projects covering a variety of research topics including: Genetic studies on Salmonid species, studies on various species of crustaceans, lowland paleoseismology, and visual foraging models

Instruction: GIS surveys, Geosciences, invertebrate sampling and general education

Non-UW: National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, US Geological Survey, Washington Department of Ecology, Kitsap PUD, ,Kitsap County, Klahowya High School.

Usage Fee

Usage fee schedules are available. Please contact the School Administrator, 206-616-4172, or Dave Rose, 360-692-9227, to obtain complete schedules. Also, see Project Agreement form.

Unique Environment

The forest is second growth and about 30-50 years old. The flora and fauna are typical of the lowland humid rain forests of the Pacific Northwest; they include over 100 species of birds and several larger mammals such as beaver, bobcat, black tail deer, raccoon, opossum, and skunk, with evidence of black bear. Big Beef Creek is an indicator stream for salmon in Hood Canal (see WA Fish & Wildlife Intensively Monitored Watershed program and hosts an Army Corps of Engineers stream flow meter. In all, the facility is an immensely rich resource providing rain forest, freshwater streams, bogs and swamps, estuary, salt marsh, and tide flats.

Affiliated UW Faculty
Research Staff