Aquatic Reserves
-A +A

Rocky Beach ReserveWashington’s aquatic lands contain remarkable and unique habitat that supports an abundance of diverse wildlife. The Department of Natural Resources has established aquatic reserves throughout the state to protect important native ecosystems on state-owned aquatic lands. Through its aquatic reserves, DNR promotes the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of state-owned aquatic lands that are of special educational, scientific, or environmental interest. Managing aquatic reserves does not affect private or other adjacent land ownership.


Aquatic Reserves

Benefits of an Aquatic Reserve Designation include: 

Citizen scientists work with DNR on Cypress Island.
Citizen scientists work with DNR at the 
Cypress Island reserve. DNR Photo

  • Environmental protection through preservation, restoration, and enhancement designed for specific sites.
  • Enhanced health of native marine and freshwater aquatic habitats, and the fish and wildlife that depend on them.
  • Encouraged public use and access.
  • Greater public input in conservation management.
  • Collaboration with citizens, tribes and state, local and federal governments to develop and implement management plans.


Aquatic Reserves can be located on state-owned aquatic lands throughout the state. Each reserve must address environmental, scientific, and/or educational needs. Establishing a new aquatic reserve is a lengthy process that allows for scientific scrutiny and extensive public input. Before a site can be designated it is evaluated, and management plan developed with input and involvement of stakeholders; citizens; and public agencies.
DNR is now considering the creation of Washington's first freshwater Aquatic Reserve at Lake Kapowsin in Pierce County. 
A technical committee is currently reviewing the proposal to designate Lake Kapowsin an Aquatic Reserve. Find out more here.
Lake Kapowsin is a 512-acre low elevation freshwater lake with mostly undeveloped natural shorelines. This lake has a unique origin: it was created when the Electron Mudflow rushed down the Puyallup Valley from Mt. Rainier and dammed Kapowsin Creek, flooding the valley floor and drowning the native forest. The large amount of wood and stumps in the lake provide valuable habitat for fish, amphibians, as well as the invertebrate species that supply their diet. The lake is popular with fisherman and supports a range of native and stocked sport fish. Find out more here.


SoundCorps members remove derelict logs from a beach. As an AmeriCorps program and a part of the Washington Conservation Corps, the Puget SoundCorps is comprised of young adults and veterans that work on critical projects to help restore and protect Puget Sound.
The DNR Aquatic Reserves Program sponsors six Puget SoundCorps members to perform baseline monitoring, debris cleanup, and outreach projects within the Aquatic Reserves network. The DNR Aquatic Reserves Puget SoundCorps Team fills in data gaps and connects communities to their aquatic reserves.


To support DNR’s management of the Aquatic Reserves, local partners have formed citizen stewardship committees for five of the Aquatic Reserves:
Citizens serving on these committees help implement the management actions for their local Aquatic Reserve in accordance with DNR’s objectives.  They are involved in community education and outreach, as well as citizen science projects.  
Learn more about current projects and how you can get involved at