Yost Park

Edmonds Discovery Programs
A Leader in Conservation Education since 1980

 Yost Park entrance yost tn shadow
A trail map of Yost Park is available here.
Other Yost Park brochures are available here.

Yost Memorial Park today contains one of the few areas of native vegetation that remain in Edmonds. The mixed stands of Western red cedar, red alder, big-leaf maple and western hemlock trees offer a glimpse into the past, and the future.

The Park is situated along Shell Creek and the deep ravine its waters carved over time. Shell Creek empties into Puget Sound north of Caspers Street, and is populated with numerous insects, amphibians, and even salmon!

The area was logged in the early 1900’s, and the large evergreen logs were processed into shingles and lumber in mills along the Edmonds waterfront. Deciduous trees such as red alder subsequently “colonized” the logged area, and over time bacteria in the alder trees’ roots fixed nitrogen from the air, storing it in root nodules which replenish depleted soil nitrogen. As the short lived Alders (50 – 70 yrs.) begin to die and fall, a new generation of evergreens will take their place, supported by the revitalized soil. The next half century will see Yost Park once again dominated by native evergreen trees.

 Sword Fern

Dozens of large old Cedar stumps can be found throughout the Park. “Nurse logs “ are fallen logs that are laying on the ground. As stumps and logs decay, their nutrients replenish the soil, and encourage smaller plants to grow upon them. Huckleberry, salal, salmonberry, ferns, moss, lichen and fungi all find a home on these decaying giants.

Yost Park provides a habitat for numerous species of resident and migratory birds including Barred Owls, Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Spotted Towhees, and Cooper’s Hawks. Black-capped Chickadee, Swainson’s Thrush, Olive-sided flycatcher, and Winter Wren are some of the more common small birds found in the park.

Mammals include the nocturnal mountain beaver, opossum, raccoon, shrew mole, and a few types of bats. Giant Pacific salamanders are sometimes found in the creek itself, and in the spring Pacific tree frogs can sometimes be heard singing in the wetlands surrounding the boardwalk.

In 1902, Allen Yost and family formed the Edmonds Spring Water Company to supply water to the residents of the young community. They dammed Shell Creek, and piped the retained water into the town for consumption. Remnants of these dams and settling tanks can be seen along the Shell Creek and Weir trails.

Location: Yost Park is located at 9535 Bowdoin Way in Edmonds.

View Map

Park Hours: Yost Park is open to the public from dawn to dusk, year round. Check for swimming pool hours and dates of operation (425) 771-0230.

Reminders: Leash and Scoop laws are in effect – so keep dogs on leash and clean up after them; help keep the waters of Shell Creek clean!

Use caution running on the boardwalks after a rain – they can be slippery.


In 1862 the non-native population of Snohomish County consisted of 44 men. Many Northwest natives made their homes along the beaches north and south of the tree covered hills of Edmonds. Two tribes that lived in the county were the Skykomish, living along that river and the Foss, and the Snohomish, who had four main villages around Puget Sound. Bears roamed over the hillsides. Bobcats, coyotes, deer and squirrels lived undisturbed by people. Large numbers of birds could find food and shelter along the edge of the forest and in the marshes. Salmon spawned in the many streams that ran down to Puget Sound.

The hills and trees were no deterrent to the European settlers who came to Edmonds. Beginning with George Brackett in 1870, they saw the opportunity to make a living off the land. Logging provided the jobs for most early settlers. At one time the Edmonds waterfront had 14 mills producing cedar shingles. The last mill closed in 1951, after all the available old-growth cedar within a reasonable hauling distance was gone. Other businesses that took advantage of available natural resources, such as brickyards, flourished in the early days of Edmonds. The pioneer families took advantage of the mild climate and fertile soil. Most had vegetable gardens, and raised chickens and other livestock.

The town of Edmonds was isolated until 1890 when the railroad came through. Before then, settlers had two choices for travel: backpack through the woods, or ride a steamboat to Seattle or Everett. The Buckeye went by once a day, but until a wharf was built, travelers had to wave a red handkerchief to signal the boat to stop, and then row out to board it.

Before the town of Edmonds grew up, water flowed through a network of small streams into Puget Sound. Early settlers carried buckets, dug wells, and diverted creeks for household water. It was not long before water became contaminated by sewage and erosion from heavily logged land. The first water pipes were made from hollowed-out fir logs held together with iron bands and covered with tar to slow down decay. These could last more than 70 years.  Today, water flows through the City of Edmonds mostly in underground pipes, and very little riparian habitat is left.

With the expanding human population of Edmonds came the inevitable disappearance of native wildlife. In 1887, Samuel Holmes homesteaded at Holmes Corner, where Edmonds-Woodway High School is located. The first night he and his wife spent there, a cougar tried to join them in their tent. Cougars, along with most other large mammals, are not compatible with human civilization, and are long gone from the hills of Edmonds.

The mammals we share our modern city environment with are the ones that have adapted to living near people. Animals like the coyote, raccoon, and opossum, that are able to stay hidden during the day in small patches of habitat, and have a varied diet, are able to flourish. Moles and rodents, including the introduced eastern gray squirrel find available niches in city parks and backyards.

Bird populations, and the diversity of bird species, have similarly declined. Salmon face many obstacles in migrating to and from Puget Sound as well as degraded spawning habitat. Many changes have been made to the natural northwest habitat by early pioneers and their descendants. Some were for profit, some to improve living conditions for people. Most were not beneficial to native forests, watersheds, and wildlife.

The Shell Creek valley today is dominated by mature red alder trees as tall as 90 feet. The dense canopy and poorly drained soils limit the diversity of understory, which is dominated by salmonberry. Also present are red huckleberry, salal, sword fern, and elderberry, along with other shrubs, grasses, and herbaceous plants. All but salmonberry seem to prefer small rises in elevation and stumps and logs.

Red alders reach their maximum size at about 60 years. After that, heart rot sets in and they fall apart. Foresters used to regard them as “weed trees” which prevented Douglas-fir from re-establishing after logging. Nowadays alders get more respect, since it was discovered that they have root nodules which increase nitrogen in the soil. In addition, their leaves decompose rapidly to form a rich humus, so the soil is improved both chemically and physically. Most trees, including conifers, grow more rapidly on sites that have been pioneered by red alder.

Red alder forests supply a diversity of wildlife habitat. Older trees provide perches for resting and hunting. Broken tops and cavities provide dens, nesting places, and opportunities for food storage. Alder seed is important wildlife food, as are the dense understory of salmonberry and seed-bearing plants.

The Yost Park red alder forest, meandering stream, and surrounding conifer forest offers critical refuge to wildlife in an increasingly urban environment. It exemplifies the importance of the red alder in nature’s successional processes. Alders are intolerant of shade, so as they die out, more shade-tolerant conifers (western hemlock, western red-cedar) or black cottonwoods will become dominant. Significant conifer density could take 50-100 years. With successional changes in the forest, different wildlife species will be attracted.

People are attracted to the Shell Creek Nature Trail year round, to escape the noise and stress of the city and watch the seasonal and successional changes. With proper stewardship of resources, Yost Park will continue to offer opportunities for environmental education and outdoor recreation to the present and future citizens of Edmonds and surrounding communities.