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Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary is an oasis teeming with life

A blue dragonfly hovers over the water while searching for insects.

Mike Benbow / Special to The Herald

A blue dragonfly hovers over the water while searching for insects.

Drive by a shopping center or an industrial park from the past few decades and you'll likely see one: a postage-stamp-sized pond behind a chain-link fence.

The tiny ponds don't look like much, and they don't do much for wildlife, either. But that's what regulations used to require developers to do when they filled in a wet area with dirt and concrete.

These days, there are wetland banks where developers can buy a piece of a larger, functional wetland outside the boundaries of their property.

A frog sitting on a cattail on the water's edge.

Photo by Mike Benbow

A frog sitting on a cattail on the water's edge.

The first such bank in Snohomish County, Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary was created in 1993 to replace wetlands destroyed at Paine Field by a new runway. The airport teamed with manufacturers and private landowners to create a 48-acre engineered wetland down the road in an Everett industrial center.

The project was controversial at the time, but it was studied for years and deemed to be functioning well. Narbeck isn't something you would expect to find in an industrial area.

It teems with wildlife large and small, from the occasional deer, beaver or rabbit to a wide variety of birds and insects, all visible from a half-mile boardwalk through the heart of the wetland or on a longer walk along a perimeter trail.

A caterpillar explores a railing along a walkway.

Photo by Mike Benbow

A caterpillar explores a railing along a walkway.

The boardwalk has occasional side trails, benches and interpretive signs to explain how the wetland was created and how it works.

Narbeck was difficult to visit earlier this year because workers at the nearby Boeing Co. were leaving their cars in the small parking area and then walking down the street to work.

The county closed the park for a cleanup in March.

Since it reopened, officials have been more aggressive about issuing tickets to violators of the three-hour parking limit, so the problem appears to be solved for now. If anything, the beautiful park is underused.

That said, if you want to visit Narbeck, don't go on a weekday during the lunch hour. The sanctuary gets quite a lot of traffic during the noon break from workers at Boeing and at Fluke Manufacturing just across the street.

While Narbeck is a great place for a walk or a run, I think its true value is in the peace and serenity it provides in a stroll through the wetland or its surrounding forest. So you're better off visiting when local workers aren't rushing through for their daily exercise.

I went several times late last month and was amazed at the things you can see if you walk slowly or sit for a while on one of the many well-placed benches.

I took my camera and a macro lens to get some closeups of critters most people tend to overlook or ignore. Mostly there were a lot of dragonflies, damselflies and frogs, with the occasional snake.

  • See more creatures from the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary in our photo gallery.
It reminded me a lot of a wetland and woods at the end of the street where I grew up. That's where I spent most of my time as a kid, collecting a variety of specimens that I kept in jars or aquariums.

The big difference was I didn't come home from Narbeck with any garter snakes or frogs in my pocket, just pictures of them.

A snake hunts for prey along a forest trail.

Photo by Mike Benbow

A snake hunts for prey along a forest trail.

If you go
Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary
6921 Seaway Blvd., Everett
Hours: 7 a.m. to dusk
Cost: Free
Facilities: Restrooms, picnic tables, benches

Story tags » WalkingParksWildlife Watching

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