An email from a reader of the site posed a few interesting questions about the two small lakes in the northern sections of Seattle, specifically discussing the current and historical outflows of these lakes.  I’ve discussed the small lakes in brief here, related maps of their bathymetry and tangentially in the context of Licton Springs. However, this was a good instigation to to focus on some more specifics of these urban water bodies.  I will refrain from my tendency to write another way-too-long post (of which this will inevitably turn into) and parcel this out in a few shorter ones, the first focusing on drainage questions (of which these are all connected) and then individual posts on Haller Lake, Bitter Lake, and Green Lake, as they are important parts of the hydrological history of Seattle.

To understand the overall configuration of water in Seattle, I did find this document by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) titled ‘City of Seattle State of the Waters 2007‘. The first volume covers Seattle Watercourses, (which we will probably return to in the future), and in particular for our purposes here we look to Volume II: Seattle Small Lakes’  (both links above go to the PDFs – as I couldn’t find a page with a direct link) and it sounds like a great resource in need of an update.

For some general contents, a bit on lakes in general and their outfalls, from Vol. II, p.3:  “Lakes receive inflow from their surrounding watersheds through rivers, watercourses, overland and subsurface flow, and — in developed areas — from drainage pipes. Water typically exists a lake through a watercourse or river, although the outflows of most lakes in Seattle have been channeled into constructed drainage systems.”

HISTORIC DRAINAGE

In general, all three lakes are formed from Vashon glaciation, and as I mentioned previously, per geologist Stan Chernicoff, both Bitter and Haller lakes would be considered true kettle lakes, and Green Lake a hybrid, although still formed by glaciation.  The 1850s map locates the three Lakes, all of which are in the north portion of Seattle, but doesn’t offer too much in terms of drainage direction, aside from implying proximity between Thornton Creek drainage for Haller Lake, and Bitter Lake likely draining west due to proximity, neither show a visible outfall creek.

Green Lake it’s more obvious, with multiple inflows, including Licton Springs Creek, and the very distinct outflow that drains through Ravenna Creek southeast into Union Bay.

The 1894 USGS map offers us the aid of topography, along with a bit more more comprehensive creek coverage. Bitter Lake hints at the possibility of outfalls either direction, heading to the northwest down to ravines that skirt The Highlands and the Seattle Golf Club and outlet near Spring Beach, and also draining southeast towards a seasonal drainage. Haller Lake (titled Welsh Lake on the map) also has no visible outfall as well, but adjacent creeks that are part of Thornton Creek drainage nearby, and a wetland area to the south make me infer that these  would be like to be the natural drainage course of the lake.

Green Lake’s hydrology is a lot simpler to discern, with the similar inputs and outputs via the Ravenna outlet to the wetland zones near University Village and outlets into Union Bay.

TWO ALTERNATIVE THEORIES ON HISTORICAL DRAINAGE

One part I’ve always been a bit skeptical about in the USGS map is the location and extent of the drainage from Thornton Creek that looks to curve way west and intercept any south flow from the Bitter and Haller Lakes and direct it to the east to the larger Thornton Creek Basin.  Licton Springs Creek also flows south, and is in reality much further north than shown on maps, and the interface between the two basins if filled with springs and wetlands, so it’s likely there could have been some disconnect between what was there flowing south, and what was mapped flowing east.  However,  Alternative 1 uses the basis of the map as the correct flowline, so shows both Bitter Lake and Haller Lake draining towards a seasonal creek and wetland that exists in the South Branch of Thornton Creek, and a smaller drainage picking up Licton Springs Creek draining into Green Lake.  This mapped, overlaid on the 1894 map, shows an option for the lakes draining east, into Lake Washington. Dashed lines, for reference, are really basic watershed delineations, and the arrows show flow from lakes.

My gut is that both lakes flowed into Green Lake, via Licton Springs Creek, and then continued out to Ravenna.  Alternative 2 looks at a version of this where there is more of a distinct ridgeline separation between the Thornton Creek Basin and the drainage that flows north south, and that the survey misinterpreted the flowline that heads towards the east due to the aforementioned springs and wetlands.  The fact that the Licton Springs Creek is much further north than mapped, makes me posit that the upper lakes drained to this transfer point, and that instead of falling east, the flows kept going south into Green Lake, via the Licton Springs. Overlaid on the modern topography gives a bit of context to this configuration.

Both of these options are plausible, and the current outflows of the lakes (seen below) support this, with Bitter Lake draining to the Southeast and Haller Lake draining West.  This at least gives us the indication that these both flowed to the low north/south valley (where current Highway 99/Aurora Avenue runs), however, where they go after is still a bit of a mystery. My follow-up plan is to look at some Lidar or a DEM to provide a much clearer picture of the flowlines and ridgelines, which we can assume, much like the current topo, is mostly similar to its predevelopment configurations (i.e. places in Seattle where we didn’t move hills).  This will go beyond this back of the napkin approach above and see if that higher degree of detail unlocks any new info.

CURRENT DRAINAGE
While it’s hard to determine the exact nature of pre-development drainage on these lakes, we can infer much from these historic documents and topography.  The current system is more clear, although not visibly inherent due to the modernization and piping of drainage through large intercepter sewers – in this case the Densmore Avenue Drainage System, which runs north/south around the low flowline at Aurora Avenue (Highway 99).

The first hint of the split of drainage is in the State of the Waters, where both Bitter Lake and Haller Lake fall outside of their adjacent drainages going west to Piper’s Creek and east to Thornton Creek.  Figure 1 from the report shows a narrow band that is bisected by this linear north south zone, with both creeks located inside the boundary.

A search for the nature of this basin configuration is somewhat frustrating, mostly as it seems to be specifically not related to a creek so isn’t referenced as a watershed in the same way.  The SPU site on Urban Watersheds breaks down the city into four distinct areas of drainage, including the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and the Duwamish River, as well as this uniquely land-locked zone we’re focused on, known as the Ship Canal/Lake Union basin

This is subdivided into some smaller sub-basins,including the Ship Canal Basin, the South Lake Union, and our zone, the North Lake Union Basin, which stretches up to the northern lakes, in that same narrow band, encompassing their drainages, then around Green Lake, and south to the interface with Lake Union.

The specific acrobatics that the Densmore Basin does to get down to Lake Union is hinted at but there’s not a lot of great maps, in particular the last section which .  This excerpt from the Seattle Comprehensive Plan Update Draft EIS from May 4, 2015 shows the ‘capacity constrained’ condition. but does highlight the basin and it’s

I dug a bit more and found another mystifyingly badly interfaced GIS portal, this time Drainage Basins layer from City of Seattle, embedded below.  Again, need to download the data and have a bit more freedom to sort it out in order to display it in a better way, but you get the idea from this map (especially if you zoom in on the areas below Green Lake, and can see the basin outline snaking in a thin, gerrymandered strip beside I-5.

 

The lakes themselves fit within the infrastructure systems, as seen below.  The City of Seattle Water and Sewer Map , which I thought would be helpful but really isn’t because you have to zoom way in to show pipes and so lose context, so it  doesn’t clearly articulate the drainage system elements enough to isolate (i included a few screenshots), so probably need to get some GIS files to draw these and separate mains, branches, etc. to isolate systems, but the narratives are pretty clear in explaining the outfall scenarios.

Haller Lake, which is around 15 acres of drainage, and has a maximum depth of 36 feet, get’s inputs from adjacent residential drainage areas (280 acre drainage), now drains via the Densmore system, as mentioned in State of the Waters, Vol II, the lake “…discharges through an outlet control structure on the western side of the lake, eventually draining to Lake Union via the Densmore storm drain system.”

Bitter Lake, measures 18.4 acres with a max depth of 31 feet, draining a smaller area (159 acre drainage). This lake is also being drained into the Densmore system, from the State of the Waters, Vol II, page 25: “At its southeastern end, Bitter Lake drains through a piped outlet that runs through a series of small ditches and culverts before entering the Densmore storm drain system on Aurora Avenue North.  The Densmore system is equipped with a low-flow bypass, which conveys runoff directly to Lake Union. Under high-flow conditions, runoff passes through Green Lake before discharging to Lake Union.”

Green Lake, has a surface area of 259 acres, and a shallow depth, maxing out at around 30 feet, drains a basin of 1875 acres of surrounding area, as well as getting inputs from the Densmore system, as mentioned above.  Alas, it now no longer drains into Ravenna Creek, but is diverted, per the State of the Waters, Vol II, and“now discharges to Lake Union through a single outlet located near Meridian Avenue North.  In the past, Green Lake also discharged to the combined sewer system via a number of outlets around the lake. However, these outlets were recently blocked and now are used by Seattle Parks and Recreation only during rainstorms of long duration when the Meridian Avenue North outlet is not adequate to maintain water levels in Green lake.”

 


HEADER: Haller Lake from above – via Windemere

 

 

A fun story about an interesting project being developed to provide a version of street view, only for rivers. From the story on knkx, “‘FishViews’ Mapping Tool Provides Virtual tours Of Local Rivers”  which announced they had “…just finished mapping its sixth Northwest river, the Stillaguamish. Other tours include Lake Washington, Lake Union, Shilshole Bay and the Locks. They’re all enabled for virtual reality headsets and you can cruise along at your preferred speed, or zoom around the panoramic images with your cursor, like you might on Google. You can even take a peek underwater. There’s definitely a “gee whiz” factor.”

From their site, FishViews aims to explore waterways and waterway data with virtual reality tours, but they also have a ton of other practical uses.  Focus areas at this point include Seattle area and some more remote locations in the Cascade Range and Olympic Pennisula, including their first, the somehwhat recently dam-free Elwha River (seen in the header above).  Additionally zones in Texas around San Antonio and Houston have also been mapped by the FishViews team.  You can access via guess account, or sign up for full access to some of the info – and other than having to sign in over and over again, I’d highly recommend losing a few hours, as it’s a lot of fun.

The interface is powered through ESRI storymap format, so has a pretty intuitive user experience of selecting through map icons or on a slider, with the ability to search as well.  Lots of these early maps focus around the Seattle.  One worth checking out is the Lower Duwamish, which encompasses the lower 12 miles of the Green River drainage, now so manipulated it lost its designation as a river and is now only “known as the Duwamish Waterway”.  Each ‘tour’ has a bit of introductory info.

Probably few have the chance to boat the 12 mile stretch of the Duwamish, and it’s telling to tour the edges and discover the massive industrialization of the entire shoreline.

And also the moments of sublime beauty, which are reflected in a similar fashion to this previous post on the Duwamish River from the book ‘Once and Future River’, such as what may be the longest waterfront facade without a window, to the industrial beauty inherent in this context.

The access to metrics is sort of an interesting take, with a variety of info available in a pop-up, such as resistivity and conductivity, dissolved solids, temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen, as seen below for the Duwamish (at least when this data was being collected).

A few more shots, including the area connecting the Ship Canal to Lake Union.

And for smaller lakes, a nice coverage around the shoreline of Green Lake – also showing, similar to the beauty of Street View in capturing art – there’s some amazing shots of these aquatic resources as well.

In Portland area, they done an initial mapping of the Willamette, which is a nice tour around the city.  An option as well to have the scene data in the lower corner also provides some context – but it drives a lot like Street View.

The ability to animate by linking the frames together is not a terribly enjoyable experience – although you can adjust frame rate. Think along the lines of a boat ride with a queasy stomach,but is a nice way to tour through a route to see what it holds.  A view of the northern section of the Willamette shows this in action.

The underwater view is probably a lot more interesting in shallow water rivers and creeks, but pretty much looks a lot like this in both Portland and Seattle.

Although I was secretly hoping for robot fish, the technology for FishView’s capture technology is similar to information gathering for Street View, with a similar 360 camera rig, along with a variety of other sensors.

While the cameras are catching the views up top, they are employing some selective sub-surface cameras, as well as customized data logging equipment.  Their process also does surveying and “…collects data below the surface. We deploy leading edge sonar technology for mapping, imaging, and exploring underwater. We use EPA standards for detailed water quality assessments and HD photography for below the surface insights. All tailored to our Virtual Reality Platform.”

The company also provides these services, per their site: “FishViews offers interactive 360° virtual tours and virtual reality for aquatic resource management. We incorporate a wide variety of hydrologic survey methods in order to produce a personalized, high-quality presentation that works specifically for your waterway data survey needs. From a stand alone 360° panoramic tour, to a comprehensive virtual reality model of an entire waterway, we create virtual platforms giving hydrologic data a home, complete with a custom-designed user interface. Our individual approach will ensure all your hydrologic survey requirements are met.”

The virtual reality component also sounds interesting, with access via phone based or immersive VR goggles – probably instinctively causing one to hold their breath, at least for a second or two.  Some more coverage via GeoAwesomeness “FishViews: Mapping the world’s waterways one mile at a time”, a video from Vice News on the project, and a PDF of a story from Pacific Standard, ‘Eyes on the River‘.

The possibilities of this seems pretty intriguing.  There’s obviously a scale aspect of , but the examples from Green Lake (seen in a VR snapshot above) Lake Union, and the Ship Canal and Locks and Discovery Park shoreline are all great explorations of urban waters in a way yet to be seen – a true key to unlocking some hidden hydrology.

And thanks to @pugetpeople for the tip on this one!


HEADER:  Screenshot of Fishview map of Elwha River – via KNKX

As I alluded to in the previous post on smaller lakes, the large Seattle lakes provide the form and contribute to the overall sense of place. River cities are shaped differently than coastal and lake cities, and the relationship with water differs due to this morphology. In either case, any urban waterway will exist in balance with many factors of urbanization, industrialization, influencing the ecological and social connections between hydrological and other systems.

In addition, because these larger water bodies exist in tandem with anthropocentric activities, they accumulate a mix of the odd and off-beat. And while I was excited about the idea of “Searching for the Mystery Sharks of Seattle”, those particular mysteries ended up a bit further outside the realm of our local water bodies. However, in Seattle, there is still evidence of some strange things in both Lake Washington and Lake Union, worth a bit of exploration.

LAKE UNION

Starting with Lake Union, which seems to have a bit less info, this article from Seattle Magazine from 2013, “Unlocking Lake Union’s waterlogged secrets — one sunken treasure at a time” is a good overview of some of the exploration.

One endeavor is the Center for Wooden Boats and their Underwater Archeology Project, starting in 2008. A good overview of this is the form of a post from 2011 by Dick Wagner “Beneath the Waters” recounts some of the finds, including a range of boats from back into the 1880s, as well as cars, motorcycles and even a Vespa scooter.

A video ‘Shipwrecks of Lake Union: Seattle’s Hidden History” the explorations from 2012:  “This short video documents the Lake Union underwater archaeology project that The Center for Wooden Boats Founding Director Dick Wagner has been helping lead for the last several years. CWB is working with the UW’s Burke Museum, The State Department of Ecology, and others to locate and document vessels and other historic artifacts. Using the latest in underwater technology, divers and amateur archaeologists have been scouring the 40-foot-deep lake, looking at more spots where sunken vessels lie.”

The Lake Union Virtual Museum also has a nice map of a few of the wrecks on their site, clickable with some photos of some of the 100s of wrecks in the lakes (go to the link to interact)

The wreck of the J.E. Boyden, which is one of the finds of the Underwater Archaeology Project above, is located in the south part of the lake, “One of the oldest and best documented wrecks in Lake Union, the J.E. Boyden was built in 1888 and has been on the lake bottom since 1935.”

The Global Underwater Explorers Seattle group, which educates divers.  From their site:  “our exploration projects will have the ultimate goal of gathering consistent observational data and documenting the degradation or appreciation of our submerged resources over time.  Through data analysis, we aim to drive policy-changing efforts to conserve, protect and create public awareness for our submerged resources”  They also maintain Project Baseline, which is an interactive online map which displays bathymetry of Lake Union and Washington, with documentation of these wrecks as well as unknown and unexplored underway element.  The Lake Union area in whole, which also shows the lake to be quite shallow, maxing out at about 40 feet at the deepest points.

A zoom in on the south section offers some interesting underwater topography, and the information about the Boyden, with a pop-up of info.  Go to the map and check it out and you can see the distinct shape of the boat on the surface.

There’s definitely some novelty to the concept of shipwrecks, and the information appeals to a certain geeky longing that seems visceral to the water.  As summed in the Seattle Magazine article there’s more to it that that:

“The effort to record these old wrecks is not simply a matter for scuba heads or boat geeks. Lake Union is the heart of Seattle’s maritime origins; filling in the story of its transformation from a pristine natural lake to a center for industry (including sawmills, brick making and boatbuilding) to a recreation hub through photos and film is of tremendous value.”

LAKE WASHINGTON

As for Lake Washington, the significantly larger water body, it doesn’t take much digging to uncover a range of good stories and mysteries.  A 2014 KUOW Story is a good starting point: “What’s On The Botton of Lake Washington? Planes, Trains And…” hints at the diversity of subsurface elements, including planes “ Lake Washington is like a treasure trove for old plane wrecks. There are at least seven at the bottom of the Lake. They’re a frozen piece of our wartime history, a time when mock air battles raged over these waters. Midair collisions would send airplanes crashing into the lake.”

SHIPS

One there’s no shortage of, much like Lake Union, are ships, many of them either lost in accidents, or purposely scuttled.  Per the KUOW story, “…there are about 400 boats beneath the surface: ferries, barges, three Navy minesweepers, mostly in the shallower waters off Kirkland, where the Lake Washington Shipyards used to be. Now, it’s a graveyard for wrecked boats. “These are full-on, full-sized ferries on the bottom, right underneath all the yachts that are parked there now,” said diver Ben Griner, also aboard.  As for the minesweepers, one day they were docked, the next they were gone.”

For as long as there’s been water and something staring into its depths, there’s been the desire to dive in and see what’s underneath.  Overlapping with the Global Underwater Explorers (GUE Seattle), is the Maritime Documentation Society, (link is to Facebook, as their original link is bad) is one of those groups that do this on a regular basis, with a mission.  From their page, it is focused on  “exploration and documentation of existing, undiscovered, and natural historic shipwrecks. Our goal is to create public awareness and expand the wealth of history for present and future generations.”  

Some good videos are also found via DCS Films, which is ‘Dedicated to Advanced Technical Diving and Underwater Cinematography’ is a good resource to see what its like submarine, and they have some info on Lake Washington Relics.  A clip from a story from “KCPQ 13 on the artifacts of Lake Washington A joint effort of the Maritime Documentation Society, DCS Films, and GUE Seattle” offers a bit of the footage.

Similarly the afforementioned GUE-Seattle has some great info about explorations on their blog, along with the maps shown before.  Some of the stories of the dives are a fun read, to understand that equipped with a bit of info such as a general location and some scans, the fun is in exploration.  One such as this exploration of LW250, an unknown object, seen here in the bathymetric view.

And the interesting perspective of the side sonar imagery, seen below.

From the post: “We found a well-preserved wooden sailboat in good condition and it was a pleasure exploring it. As is true with most fish stories and dive stories, this was the most spectacular boat even found. It had a hole in the deck with treasures of very old bottles, ledgers of misplaced bank funds, police ID badges, a revolver, and an attaché case chained to the railing…..actually it had none of that, but it was as exciting as if it did. Just to be there on this boat that no one had ever seen was thrilling. The boat actually had a Washington state registration number and the last year sticker on the side was 1983.”

A snip of the GUE-Seattle Bathymetry shows part of the Lake (it’s a really big lake) showing a range of underwater explorations, and also the relative depths, as you see see beyond the east side tidal zones, the edge of Lake washington falls off sharply from the Seattle shoreline (on the left side of the map).

And while the shipwrecks are cool, I’m really fascinated with the bathymetric info as an interesting exploration of hidden hydrology that goes beyond creeks and rivers – especially as there was so much manipulation of the Lake levels amidst the re-plumbining of the entire region, this information provides some great clues to a history unique to a lake-shaped city.

AN UNDERWATER FOREST

My interest in this topic in general was piqued by the May 2011 KUOW story “The spooky, underwater forests of Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish”, which describes 1000 year old forests off the edges of areas of both lakes. Remnants of an 1100 year old seismic event, areas of these forests were discovered   The caption helps explain this image : ” This image is a close up of the standing timber on the south end of Mercer Island. The image is generated using a side scan sonar towed behind a boat about 20 feet off the bottom. The trees are visible mostly from the shadows they cast.

There was a video I do recall seeing, but all the links now seem to be gone.  It was bit disorienting, so aside from a glimpse of something tree-like, it was alot of darkness and blurriness, which makes one thin.  Ben Griner of Coastal Sensing who explored the Lake via sonar and underwater is, quoted in the story “…describes the drowned trees off the southern coast of Mercer Island as a thrill to swim through (although he gets not everyone would see it that way). “It’s certainly a disorienting dive,” he said. “A lot of people call it really freaky. Other people describe it as exciting and interesting.” The lake is pitch black at that depth — and being underwater can mess with one’s sense of movement. Griner said it’s sometimes difficult to tell if the water is moving or he is, and divers often bump into things.  “Because of how long the forest has been under water and how busy the lake is, most trees are just the trunks now,” he said. “It can be a little creepy, but it’s really fun to swim through the trees.”

 

From the Wikipedia page, the location of the underwater forests are located in yellow, adjacent to Mercer Island to the south, and another segment.  Per the page, the earthquake from around 900 C.E. created “The landslides on heavily wooded land created “bizarre submerged forests” of old-growth timber, preserved by the cool water and low oxygen in the deep lake.[1][5] These sunken forests were known to early European settlers of the Seattle area, for whom the snags could be a hazard to ships on the lake, and as early as 1919, nearly 200 of the sunken trees had been removed from depths of 65–132 feet (20–40 m)”

David Williams, who does his usual engagingly thorough job of discussing this topic back in 2014 on a post “What Lies Beneath – the Secrets of Lake Washington” discusses ships, and these Submerged Forests as well, explaining a chapter in the story (also mentioned in the KUOW story).

“Mostly forgotten, the trees merited public attention in the 1990s. In 1994, John Tortorelli was caught salvaging wood from the submerged forests. Unfortunately for him the state Department of Natural Resources owns the trees, plus he damaged an underwater sewer line. Found guilty of three counts of theft and three of trafficking in stolen property, Tortorelli received a jail term of three and a half years”

The post includes this map, highlighting the locations of the souther sections identified above.

COAL CAR ENDNOTE

As many discussed the other submerged worlds of ships and forests, both the KUOW article and David Williams mention coal cars on the bottom of the Lake as well.  Williams elaborates on the the eastside coal connection, which saw  a constant stream of “… coal was loaded on railroad cars at Newcastle and lowered 900 feet by tram to Lake Washington, where the cars traveled on a barge to Union Bay and then on a tram over the narrow neck of land now crossed by SR-520. A second barge carried the coal cars across Lake Union to a train (Seattle’s first) that carried the coal its final mile to a final tram, which lowered the ore down to a massive coal bunker at the base of Pike Street. It was on one of these trips across Lake Washington that the barge dropped its load of coal cars now sitting at the bottom of the lake.”  

With that frequency, the accident was bound to happen. To verify this concept, a cool shot from Coastal Sensing shows the scattered remains of perhaps these same “Coal Cars in Lake Washington Seattle.  Lost in a storm while transporting coal from Coal Creek to the small city of Seattle.” (read more about this here).


HEADER: Lake Union and Lake Washington Bathymetry – via GUE-Seattle Project Baseline Map

There are some that shape Seattle, including Lake Washington to the east (see above header image), a massive 21,500 acres of lake area and a max depth of 214 feet, draining a watershed of over 550 square miles and defines the entire inland edge of the city.  In the medium size category is centrally located Lake Union, (below) which encompasses 580 acres, a max depth of 50 ft, and a similarly larger watershed.  These, along with the Salish Sea to the west, and the Ship Canal and locks, literally form the hourglass shape of the City of Seattle and make up much of the story of the city in terms of water.

Nautical charts aside, we will have plenty more to come on these in terms of history and form, as well as some new efforts that have unlocked some mysteries hidden in their depths.  For now, In addition to these large lakes, there are a number of small lakes that dot the landscape, remnants of the glacial action, namely in the form of kettle ponds. King County has a site for Lakes Data and Descriptions, which includes both, but of particular interest is the page for Small Lakes Data and Info, which allows access to information on these lake, including some simple yet compelling bathymetric maps.   Green Lake falls into the small lake category (and also has been plagued with water quality issues.  The bathymetry shows the current shoreline, which has a lake surface of 259 acres with a contributing watershed (although no contributing streams anymore) of 1875 acres.

For a slightly different visual,this 1938 W.P.A Sanitary Survey map (via the Seattle Municipal Archives page) shows a color coded look “Showing Depth Contours of Green Lake as of 1936”.

Those familiar with the story will know that the shoreline of the lake was changed a bit around the turn of the 20th century, and the addition of the waterfowl named island by said WPA also was not an original, but more on the historic manipulation of the shoreline of Green Lake at a future date.

For now, another interesting resource on the King County Lake site charting of various lake metrics, including water quality.  As I mentioned, water quality issues, mostly in the form of toxic algae growth, have been problematic in Green Lake, with a peak issue in 2013 and a spike in 2016   Some historical data shows the situation in 2016, which shows a spike in Chlorphyll-a, which is an indicator of algae growth, and subsequent nutrient and temperature charts.

The smaller lakes in North Seattle also appear, including the smallest (yet deepest) Haller Lake, which has a surface are of 15 acres, with a max depth of 36 feet.

Bitter Lake has a surface area of 19 acres with a depth up to 31 feet.

 

 

Both are probably similar in size today as they were in the 1800s, based on the historical maps.  The land uses and while the land use has changed, also probably have similar catchment zones.  Maps on the site outline these watersheds, for instance the 331 acre drainage of the lake.  As mentioned on the site: “This map shows the area of the watershed relative to the area of the lake. Generally speaking, the larger a watershed is relative to a lake, the greater the influence land use practices on lake water quality.”

An interesting tidbit on this was discovering the amazing Lakes of Washington by Ernest E. Walcott published in the early 1960s which was the basis for much of the bathymetric info included on the King County site and other resources.  I’ll expand on at a later date, but in that vein, while outside of the city proper, the range of bathymetric maps, so I snipped a few pages out of this document, which includes lakes in King County that are part of the Lake Stewardship Program – just for a flavor of different lake forms in comparison (at least formally, as they do vary in scale) – all of which are derived from the work of Wolcott.

And if you still need your Lake Washington bathymetry fix, one I did find, for the more artistic (or looking for a gift for that special map nerd) are these fun wood fun maps (found amongst other local and national water bodies) sold on Etsy by ‘Beneath the Sail’

 


HEADER: Nautical Chart of Lake Washington

[1917]
It was great see, via Twitter, local resource @HistoryLink post “100 years ago today, Thomas Phelps’s 1856 map of Seattle was published in the Town Crier”.  I saw the post today, so I’m a day late, but the Phelps map is one of those fascinating documents that highlights the historical origins of Seattle and intrigues because it so far removed from want exists today.  The article about the map, website, penned by David B. Williams, mentions the map’s original publication on December 15, 1917 as part of the article in the Town Crier  (map shown to the left). The article was about  “Seattle’s First Taste of Warfare”, found via the Seattle Public Library which outlines an early battle between new settlers and the original residents of Seattle.  The full page shows the map in the center (quality of the online version is a bit fuzzy as well – click to enlarge)

The history is summed as such by Williams via HistoryLink.org:

“Phelps’s map depicts what has become known as the Battle of Seattle, when Native Americans battled settlers and the Decatur’s crew on January 26, 1856. The death toll for the skirmish, which ended at 10 p.m., was two settlers and an unknown number of Indians. The map provides what appears to be an accurate depiction of the city on that day, although there is one notable mistake. The settlement’s northern blockhouse, or fort, is in the wrong location; it should be two blocks south, at what is now Cherry Street. (Phelps also shows a southern blockhouse, which was not built until two weeks or so after the battle.) The only other map to depict Seattle around the time of the battle is a U.S. Coast Survey map of “Duwamish Bay, W.T.” Published in 1854, it shows a roughly similar landscape and distribution of buildings.”

[1908]
A known reprint appeared inr Arthur Denny’s book “Pioneer Days on the Puget Sound”, originally published in a 1888, this map appearing in a reprint from 1908 (but also great is to see the book available as a Third Place Books Rediscovery Edition here).  A small version of the map of it from HistoryLink.org (see below for a larger, adapted similar version), with caption from Williams: “1856 map of Seattle by Thomas Phelps of USS Decatur, as published in Arthur Denny’s Pioneer Days on Puget Sound with later street grid superimposed, 1908”

Many historical maps just exist as a singular object to depict a place in a point in time.  Phelps’ map seems to exist along a continuum from it’s original sketch of which there is no record, to various prints, updates, hybrids, and transformations over the span of decades, all of which are adaptations of events that had happened some half-century or more in the past. As Williams mentioned separately in a blog post, on his GeologyWriter site about the map:  “Many, many editions of the map have been produced.”  

The other version that has a fixed date, and mostly commonly used as I’ve seen it, is that redrawn version by Clarence Bagley from 1930, recreating the “1856 map of Seattle by Thomas Phelps of USS Decatur, enlarged and revised.”  The 1930 version shows the “Officers of the Sloop of War Decatur”, and a more extensive street grid, and is signed by Bagley.  (This image is from Pinterest here as finding a good digital original with source is tough)  There’s also a sepia version around cropped with tape marks and a big seattlepi.com watermark, but the same map.

[1930]
As Williams outlines the unknowns and uncertain history of the map deftly in his article, he mentions “We do not know why Bagley produced this map, who he produced it for, or how he distributed it. Nor is an original of it known to exist. Copies are found in the holdings of Seattle Public Library and University of Washington Special Collections. Nor is it known how Bagley acquired a copy of the Phelps map. Perhaps he could have acquired it from whoever supplied the map to Alice Harriman, who published it in her 1908 reprint of Arthur Denny’s Pioneer Days. Bagley had originally published Pioneer Days, in 1888, but that edition did not include the Phelps map. Harriman did consult with Bagley so he may have had access to an original, though it is unclear why Bagley would wait until 1930 to produce his edition of the map.”

The provenance of others is a question, below is one of those alternative versions that just includes some format changes but unknown date, and stripped of the additional information added in 1930.  This larger version via DorpatSherrardLomont that also points out one flaw in the original, as included the annotation: “Phelps map of Seattle. He by now famously misplaced the blockhouse one block too far north of its real location on a knoll at the waterfront foot of Cherry Street.”

The map shown below is titled ‘Map of the Attack on Seattle’, which alludes the the original story.  In this case it is from Access Genelology site for the Washington Indian Wars, 1855-1856.  It looks like a version of the original that uses the same graphic style, in a sepia tone that cleans up the original map with updated fonts, and the titleblock shifting to the upper right (not sure about date of this one)

An alternate version that David Williams has on his blog, and as he mentions, “This is one of the more unusual. It is owned by the University of Washington Special Collections. I have no idea where it was printed or who the engravers were.” adding, that there were “…several unusual aspects.  1. Addition of “hostile” to Hills & Woods thronged with 2. Addition of “skidroad” to Lake Trail & Skidroad 3. Labels Thomas Phelps as a Lieutenant instead of Commander” ( date unknown)

This expanded version from DorpatSherrodLomond locates the original map within the larger grid of streets and pioneer claims, using the original graphic style as published in Denny’s book.

I’m sure it’s not uncommon, but it’s one of the interesting aspects of the map, as summarized, that it is not just a snapshot  of an event in a place, but that it has yielded lots questions about copyright in later years between those wishing to use the map for publication.  Williams concludes: “For such a famous map, there are many unanswered questions: When exactly did Phelps draw the original? Does an original exist?”

And for me, when looking at a map that provides a foundation for a place, the questions are both fascinating and make one questions the fidelity of memory, production, reproduction and tracings. Whole explicit or accidental it shows the agendas (and talents or lack thereof) of the mapmakers.  The story of the Phelps map is a crucial one for Seattle history and hidden hydrology, and it does offer some context for early shoreline and land fill to office later. While we’d like highly accurate and globally positioned map or story, often reality is that we get a different, more subjective and fluid tale. And as it is a touchstone to what ends up being a crazy development of the City of Seattle, perhaps a little mystery isn’t such a bad thing.


Original text quotes from “Thomas Phelps’s 1856 map of Seattle is published in the Town Crier on December 15, 1917″ via HistoryLink.org, by David B. Williams, originally published 3/24/2015.  Maps are credited to other sources because they are so incredibly small on the HistoryLink.org site to even be legible (one of my few pet peeves with an otherwise amazing resource).

David’s site Geology Writer also has more history, and tons of great info on Seattle History, by Paul Dorpat, Jean Sherrard, and Bérangère Lomont on the DorpatSherrardLomont site.

 

 

The distant fourth and final part of the Waterlines class featured the work of Eric Wagner and Tom Reese for their book Once and Future River: Reclaiming the Duwamish.  I unfortunately was out of town for work during this session, so don’t have the specifics on their actual presentation but wanted to close the loop on the class and explore this last resource through looking at the book itself (although they may have talked about something totally different).

The Duwamish is a fitting addition to the discussions of Geology, Archaeology, and the Ship Canal previously discussed, as it is the one and only river in the City of Seattle.  It, much like the Duwamish people, also best signifies the history of manipulation, exploitation and degradation, and the current challenges to restore both culture and ecology along this urban waterway.  It’s also in sharp juxtaposition to the current boom, as summaried by Duamish Tribal member and director of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, James Rasmussen: “We need to always remember that the wealth of Seattle was created on the backs of the Duwamish River and the Duwamish People.”

Wagner discusses this evolution of the Duwamish River and people along with the greater City of Seattle through multiple essays.  They cover the inevitable growth leading the dispossession of the lands, the straightening and polluting of the river, the erasure of ecology and culture. It uncovers the long truth for Seattle about conquering nature, as has been discussed in the previous Waterlines lectures, here with Wagner mentioning it in the context of the Duwamish, “…to conquer something at least implies a respect for it… The Duwamish River cannot claim such dignity.” 

Now not even a river (classified a “waterway”) and a toxic Superfund site, the idea of restoration is difficult to imagine.  There is lots of hope and much work outlined in the book on the potential, in the words of William Jordan, to “heal the scars or erase the signs of disturbance.” 

There are a few maps early in the text, showing the 1856 Map of the region prior to the mass of European settlement, next to the 1958 Map, which shows development and channelization and virtual obfuscation of the natural systems.  As Wagner mentions, in the concept of restoration “In seeking such a reversal restoration becomes a question of time, and therefore a historical exercise as much as it is a moral or a spiritual one.  What point in a river’s past should we aim for?  When was it the best version of itself?  What processes from that period can we bring back now?”

A theme of the book then is put at the beginning of the introduction:

“We strive for a past we have never known, having only read about it, or seen in in faded pictures, or heard of it in stories about an old, shadowed river that once ran so full of life and magic that it filled the people who lived on it with awe, terror, and love.  When we arrived at that place — if we are capable of reaching it, if we can recognize it should we get there — we will have found a way of seeing something that has until now been ignored, dismissed, and very nearly lost: a river from end to beginning.”

Subsequent chapters cover the history of the River through a Salish parable called the “Epic of the Winds”, and the importance of this place in the life cycle for Chinook Salmon; land erasure and land making, the industrial heritage, large scale camouflage to win World War II (seen below, the ‘streetscape of a village draped on top of Boeing Plant 2 along the Duwamish, the facility constructing B-17 Bombers, to throw off potential attacks.

image via Boeing

This patriotic and economic value of the altered Duwamish in Plant 2, Terminal  and hundreds of other comes with a legacy of toxicity the persists and will continue for millenia.  In further essays we learn about poet Richard Hugo‘s regionalist riffs on the Duwmaish, and learn about John Beal‘s tireless work to save Hamm Creek, and modern day restoration efforts including hatcheries.  Will the River rebound?  How long will it take? Who knows, but as Wagner mentions:

“…the Duwamish River has always been a place to test the surprising range of the possible.  Settlers looked at acres of mud flats and forest and saw a city. City engineers looked at a floodplain and saw a waterway. Businessepeople looked at a waterway and saw a waste management system. Now, we look at a Superfund site and see a healthy river filled with fish that are safe to seat.  All those earlier versions came to pass.  Why should this latest not as well.”

While the first half is well illustrated with Tom Reese’s photos, the second part of the book is exclusively devoted to the photographs, capturing the range of themes, including the river itself, as well as the degradation and activities around its restoration.  Bolstering the text, this beautiful, damaged place offers sorrow as well as hope.  As Reese mentions in the Coda, “The Duwamish also informs our subconscious desire for connection and our intensifying undercurrent of worry.  it can transport us to places within and beyond our own lives, reminding us what is precious, asking for our devotion.”

Some of the photos from the book are peppered through this post are also on his website, so peruse on over there to catch more imagery, or just buy the book because it’s a great addition and has even more images that you’ll come back to more than once.

An extended video probably will help fill in some of the blanks also – from about a year ago at Town Hall  “…featuring Tom Reese and Eric Wagner, co-authors of “Once and Future River: Reclaiming the Duwamish”; James Rasmussen, Director of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition; and Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times Environmental Reporter”

 

Header image  Copyright Tom Reese – “Last natural bend in lower Duwamish at Kellogg Island” – all other images, unless noted, are by Reese as well.

The first of what I hope are many field trips and investigations is now up on the site in a section called Explorations.  This will be the location for these site-specific journeys, and will be augmented with maps, narratives, soundscapes, and images layered to tell the Water Stories of these hidden streams and buried creeks.

For this initial foray, in Seattle, it was immense fun to wander the areas north of Green Lake and discover the history of Licton Springs. As you see from the map below, the historic routes show a stream flowing southwards into Green Lake.  The reach of the waterway starts around Licton Springs Park, where it is sees daylight for a stretch, along with some other intermittent segments where it pops up in surprising ways, throughout the neighborhood.

The story of Licton Springs focuses on the significance to Native Duwamish peoples, who celebrated the place and it’s spiritual, reddish, iron-oxide infused waters, and to early settlers, who lived and recreated, bathed in thermal pools, and bottled and drank of the healing mineral waters.

Like many places, the history of how the place evolved and how it was maintained is of interest, but the journey of the now and the experience of a day of exploring the edges, the muddy margins, and the sloppy seeps (lost shoes included) connect the history of place to the experience of today.

Beyond the park, there are a number of other discoveries that paint a story of people and place woved together through the flow of water.  Discovery of the story of Pilling’s Pond, a small section carved out of the flow of Licton Springs to provide a sanctuary where Charles Pilling became a world expert duck breeding in the middle of Seattle.

The discoveries also include a unique segment of stream fronting Ashworth Avenue,  a single residential block with driveways and fences literally bridging over the final daylit segment of of Licton Springs, showing how each owner shaped, or left feral, their little piece of the wild.

The connection as well with the virtual, with the final connection is made to Green Lake.  Now only connected via overflow, the tracery of Licton Springs, imagined perhaps in some abstracted water play forms, swales, and cascades, may still be allow the creek to be evident, if only in our imagination.

The link below expands on this summary, so check it out, go out and explore, and come back with some water stories of your own.

READ THE FULL EXPLORATION OF LICTON SPRINGS

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Week three of the Waterlines class featured Seattle writer and geologist David B. Williams.  Perhaps best known as the author of the recent ‘Too High and Too Steep’, a chronicle the large-scale manipulations (topographic and hydrologic, to name a few), Williams shared a more focused talk on his upcoming book Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal, which coincides with the Centennial of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks this year.  Following the course theme, and touching on some previous topics, the story encompasses the trials and tribulations to get the locks built, and the large-scale impacts that such endeavors have on the ecological and hydrological systems of Seattle.

David is an engaging storyteller, so he laid out the evolution of this significant part of Seattle’s history, touching on the geology (with the north south orientation how important the waterways were to getting around, especially, east-west movement), and the use for years by native people, who used the portage between Lake Washington to Lake Union, and then a quick connection to gain access to the ocean, and vice-versa, for the past 10,000 to 12,000 years, with stories of Kitsap Suquamish coming to Lake Washington because it was one of the largest freshwater lakes in the region.  The idea of a ship canal of some sort is as old as Seattle itself, first pitched by Thomas Mercer in 1854 and finally coming to fruition as a way to move coal, timber, and people, after many attempts 63 years later.  In fact there were multiple routes proposed and attempted with big Seattle names like the aforementioned Mercer, along with Burke, Denny, and Gilman, cutting through Smith Cove, routes across what is currently downtown, and one of the most absurd in Seattle’s history – the Semple Canal.  This map shows a number of these routes, and also the one natural, yet not very viable connection vai the Black River, which was mentioned in the previous post on Seattle archaeology as outlet from Lake Washington and would eventually fall victim to the draining of Lake Washington.

By Dennis Bratland – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

As mentioned, Semple’s Canal was perhaps the craziest scheme, wanting to slice through one of Seattle’s seven hills, Beacon Hill, which stands almost 350 feet tall.  Williams documents it on his blog in this post, with a couple of graphics showing the route and section cut (noting a maximum cut of a mere 284′-6″), highlighting the absurd notion of cutting a canal through a hill, although a good portion of the material removed from the canal before it was shut down was used to fill the Duwamish estuary into what is now industrial lands, and frankly, based on some of the other history, it would not have surprised me if this would have happened.

The eventual route of the Canal was landed on eventually towards the end of the 19th century, connecting to the Puget Sound through the existing Shilshole Bay and the eventual location of the locks, connecting through Salmon Bay, which was a fluctuating saltwater tide zone, connecting through the Fremont Cut to Lake Union, and the Montlake Cut connecting Portage Bay on the west with Union Bay and larger Lake Washington on the east.

The conditions prior to implementation show Salmon Bay connected to salt water, and involved slicing through Ross Creek and wetland zones between Salmon Bay and Lake Union, where a creek was feeding the Bay.  To the east the portage had become a narrow log flume at the narrowest point connecting Union Bay and Portage bay, completing the connection from lake to sea.

As mentioned, the eastern Montlake Cut was used as a log flume with a narrow channel (developed by Denny and others) connecting through Portage Bay, and a similar effort was made to connect through Ross Creek via what is now the the Fremont Cut.  A photo showing the area looking from Union Bay towards the west from Paul Dorpat’s blog showing the isthmus with Portage Bay in the distance prior to ship canal.  This area was sliced through with a log flume (seen on the 1894 map above) in the 1880s and at times through the early 1900s to move timber from inner areas to Seattle and beyond, setting the stage for the eventual connection.

A second image showing the narrow connection of the log sluice from 1886 that is seen on the 1894 map, one of the thin connections which eventually were expanded for free flow of goods and people across Seattle.  A dam at the upper end held Lake Washington above the level of Lake Union, and logs were dropped into this chute to float on the next leg of the journey.

While the connections seem logical, the elevations of each water body were different, with the level of Lake Union around +20, the level of Lake Washington at +29, and Salmon Bay elevation lower as it entered the Puget Sound, often not having standing water at times.  The process of building the locks set all of these elevations at the same as Lake Union, which raised Salmon Bay and made it a continuous fresh water bay, which is why it works as a place to over-winter fishing fleets as it is today (see Deadliest Catch) to keep boats out of salt water.  It also lowered Lake Washington, which as mentioned disconnected the lake from it’s natural outfall at the Black River to the south, replumbing the south area of Seattle while creating a whole lot of new lakefront land.  The completion of construction of the locks and the eventually breaching of the Montlake coffer dam (below) and the other coffer dams at the Fremont Cut, (after having to shore them up a few times), filled Salmon Bay with fresh water, and caused Lake Washington to drain down the 9 feet slowly over a few months

The locks, which opened to fanfare and massive 4th of July celebration in 1917, are fun to visit today to watch ships come in, go to the fish ladder, and see the activities.  According to Williams, these are the only government locks in the US that are crossable to the public (didn’t know that) and the main traffic, although peppered with an occasional working vessel to Portage bay, consists mostly of pleasure craft.  Also, while they did originally build a fish ladder, it didn’t work well (and was improved years later, which make a fun viewing opportunity).  Williams mentioned that fish tended to just get into the locks and ride up to travel upstream.  It’s an interesting resilience story that fish that were cut off from the Cedar River where they spawned when the Black River was disconnected, and instead of heading up the Duwamish/Black/Cedar to the south, would still be able to figure out how to get upstream via alternative routes via Shilshole miles north from their original spawning route. Talk about a well established navigation system.

The impacts for Seattle, much like the other massive changes, ended up having huge economic implications in positive ways, with the ability to tap into industrial lands for coal, timber, and shipbuilding, and some minor military use, along with what are mostly now marinas for pleasure craft today.  The fact that maritime industries are only second to aerospace in the Seattle economy is surprising, which owes much to the ship canal.  Seems a common story for Seattle, make massive change and reap the benefits (to some), even if it cuts off a river that happens to be the home place for local Native people.  To comprehend the 60+ year journey from idea to fruition, and the hundred years of operation since, another story of changing land and waters influencing our urban lives every day. Excited to see some of the events and read David’s upcoming book for more.  On that note…

Addenda: Making the Cut

A great resource on the upcoming centennial festivities is the website Making the Cut: The Locks, The Lakes and a Century of Change, which provides info on events, much of the history mentioned above, and a good section on historic maps which shows a good cross section of hidden hydrology in relationship to the hydrological manipulations to connect the lakes to the ocean.  A series of before and after maps documents the changes in the locks, Lake Union and Lake Washington, and other areas.  The series below highlights the evolution from the tidal marsh of Salmon Bay prior to the locks being installed in 1916 to the freshwater waterway today.

Salmon Bay – Today
Salmon Bay – prior to 1916 | Blue = Water |  Green = freshwater wetlands | Pink: saltwater wetlands | Brown: intertidal areas (or tidal flats)

 

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Last week was Part 2 of the Waterlines class, featuring archaeologist Dennis Lewarch, Suquamish Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, with a concept of ‘Before the Cut’.  This was an exploration “using archaeological, ethnographic and historical data [to discuss] the effects of shoreline transformations on indigenous populations.”  Similar to the first class, the depth and breadth of the cultural history, and his more expansive title ‘Archaeology and Ethnographic Background of Seattle and Prior Massive Anthropogenic Modifications” hints at the depth of this topic.

Lots of details here, but the idea that in the past 14,000 years of occupation by native peoples, after migration from the north via the Bering Land Bridge and along the outside edge of the ice.  There are various theories, but that the retreating glaciers opened up a path between that allowed access, and continuous occupation is found throughout the Northwest in archaeological sites 12-13000 years of age. Once here, the land has changed via sea level rise, mudflows, earthquakes, tsunamis, subsidence, alluvial processes, and more.  The story is thus the land shaping people, and the people shaping land.  The defining characteristics of the different tribal groups are called adaptions, and place origins of geography, such as the Saltwater adaptation, particularly the Suquamish who lived near the sea, versus the Riverine adaptation, the Duwamish people who lived near the river.  Other adaptations are tied to lakes and inland/upland areas, all of which collectively shape the speech, family community, and cultures.  For Lewarch’s presentation, the focus discussed a larger history of regional indigenous occupation of the Seattle area, with focus on some of the areas near Seattle that had significance.

Black River Origins

One of the main points of origin for Duwamish people, based on the above adaption, is the Black River, where four original villages were located.  An excerpt from the 1909 USGS Topographic map of the area shows the former drainage, where the Cedar River flowed in from the east, and the Black River drained the south part of Lake Washington, near Renton.  This confluence also was fed from the south by the former route of the White River, as all of it flowed into the Duwamish and out to the Sound.  The names of the settlements of the ‘People of the Lake Fork’ and the inhabitants near the Little Cedar River, and their evolution in living off the land and the river ecosystems for many years.

The demise of this home place began with channelization of the Cedar River into Lake Washington, and ended he lowering of the lake when the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks were built in 1916.  The elevation of Lake Washington was lowered nine feet, to the same as Lake Union, which severed its outflow to the Black River, captured in the photo below shows the river after the lowering of the lake, where it slowly died and has (mostly) been subsequently buried.  For more on the Black River history, a short blurb on this from David Williams here. 

 

The map from the Wikipedia page on the Black River also shows the before and after and the erasure of the original location of Duwamish settlements through reconfiguration of the hydrology of the region, another in a long line of massive manipulations in the region.  The Duwamish People were living in the area, and continued to do so, even as the Black River was dying.  They were relocated to reservations, and as Lewarch mentioned, they were sent to coastal areas near the ocean, and being a river tribe, kept returning to the river to fish for many years after, where they lived on a property owned by Erasmus Smithers, until it was burned in 1896.  There’s inevitably a long history of settlement and resettlement and disenfranchisement throughout recent history I’m glossing over, but the idea of a river tribe not having a river seems par for the course of how tribes were treated.  Secondary to this, the subtle differences between different tribes were not recognized, with many Suquamish or other tribes in the region being lumped into the Duwamish by colonists.

Duwamish River

The Duwamish River obviously had a significant place in the history of this river tribe, and the estuary connected the river people with those of the sea and the density of place names in that zone .  A number of archaeological sites amidst the oxbows of this area.  The 1899 US Coast Survey shows the bay and larger estuary, with the area of downtown Seattle starting to build out, but prior to the majority of the land filling to come.

A map of these old configuration juxtaposed with the channel that exists today shows the level of land filling and manipulation done to this area to carve out industrial lands.  From the fantastic Duwamish Revealed site: “About 100 years ago, the Duwamish was straightened and dredged, reducing 14 miles of winding river to 5 miles of industrial “waterway.” Nearly all of the native habitat – mudflats, marshes, and swamps surrounded by old growth Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Hemlock trees – was replaced by agriculture, then industry.  The Duwamish is home to three Native tribes: The Duwamish, the Muckleshoot, and the Suquamish, and has immense cultural importance to them. The word “Duwamish” is an Anglicized version of Dkhw’Duw’Absh, meaning “people of the inside” in Lushootseed, the language of the Coast Salish people.”

Ballast Island

While native peoples were instrumental in building the city and working in it’s saw mills, fisheries and other industry, rapidly changing Seattle began to try to eliminate the native residents of the city, passing laws in 1863 to make it illegal for Indians to live in Seattle unless they worked for whites, villages and settlements were burned.  Native peoples moved north as development occurred, and tended to stay near the water, occupying places within the network of piers and wharves.  One such place was Ballast Island, formed from ships dumping rocks after their voyages, which slowly accumulated into made land.   A photo from the area shows the colonization of this space by Native peoples, who camped out around the wharfs fringes, being ogled by early Seattlites.  In 1891 they were forcibly removed, one in a string of forced removals that shaped the early history of the area.

West Point & Shilshole

Moving away from downtown, the occupation and history of West Point, the point that was formerly military outpost and now Discovery Park, along with being the massive sewage-treatment plant.  This area was a tidal marsh that was occupied and used, with the formation of sediment along with earthquakes shaping.  When the treatment plant was being expanded, a significant archaeological effort was undertaken, beautifully documented in this online resource from the Burke MuseumShilshole also has a significance to Native Seattle, with the native word meaning ‘threading the needle’ to get into the small mouth that led into Salmon Bay, which was littered with shell middens and other features showing occupation, similar to other areas on the coast.  Prior to the creation of the locks, this area .  One long-time resident was Salmon Bay Charlie.  A great resource for this and other Seattle history is the blog by Paul Dorpat featuring ‘Seattle: Now & Then‘, where you can investigate the area in some more detail.  From the post: “Salmon Bay Charlie and his wife lived in their cedar plank home on the south shore of Magnolia’s Salmon Bay. For half a century Charlie, also known as Siwash Charlie, sold salmon, clams and berries to the first settlers and later to the soldiers at Fort Lawton.  Today’s historical view shows Charlie’s house at the turn of the century, taken by the photography firm, Webster and Stevens.”

A bit to the east, the connection between the eastern edge of Lake Union and Lake Washington is a good discussion of place names, including the connections between Lushootseed, or Coast Salish names and colonist names. This brought up a discussion of the area below,

I rotated the Waterlines map to match the same orientation, and the references to the area marked B, which was a village site named sɬuwiɬ, “Little Canoe Channel” that marked the mouth of Ravenna Creek, where Lewarch mentions there were stories of salmon runs up Ravenna.  There’s also Lake Union, marked as #21, which is called x̌ax̌əču meaning, “Small Lake” and Foster Island, in an area named staɬaɬ or “Baby Fathom” showing that even with a translation there is still a story missing.  Perhaps a shallow zones at the mouth of the creek.  The cut, marked as #18 which is named  sxʷac̓adwiɬ translated as “Carry a Canoe” meaning it probably wasn’t passable as a waterway until later when the Denny’s opened it up as a log-sluice to move timber between the two points.

The conversation of ethnography and language started with T.T. Waterman, who studied local tribal place names in the 1920s, seen in publications like “The Geographical Names Used by the Indians of the Pacific Coast” and the author of the book Puget Sound Geography, which was edited by Vi Hilbert, Jay Miller, and Zalmai Zahir.

According to Lewarch, the notes from Waterman were sort of a mess, so the editors compiled it into something readable, including an amazing figure in Seattle history, Vi Hilbert, a Puget Salish and “a conservationist of the Lushootseed language and Culture”.  While Waterman interviewed a small group of around 25 native people for his work, it generated over one thousand place names.  And as Lewarch mentioned, all of those interviewed said if they had talked to the Elders, they would have ended up with 1000s more, a sad testament to a cultural history lost forever.  Another resource for this is Coll Thrush’s book ‘Native Seattle‘ offers a great section with maps of those place names developed along with Anthropologist Nile Thompson, a snapshot of one below with the accompanying Lushootseed language and origins.  Many of these as I mentioned ended up on the Waterlines map, with more abbreviated descriptions.  The one below shows the NW corner with Green Lake in the center, and West Point, Lake Union, and Salmon Bay, along with areas along the coast marked.

CONCLUSION:

Lots of threads to follow and stories to connect.  In general, the talk focused on the Indigenous cultures and their resilience, both pre-European settlement and after colonization, displacement, and more.  He ended up with a quote from Chief Seattle, and discussion both of the potential misinterpretation of his words by the translator, and whether it was an environmental, or social statement, but the multiple meanings that resonated strongly in Seattle history.   He quoted a passage:

“And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children’s children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.”

Chief Seattle’s niece at her Shilshole home, 1901 – via http://www.duwamishtribe.org/culture.html

It could be both a warning or a statement that shows that resilience of Native people wasn’t just in survival, but left a permanent mark on the landscape and people.  The culture and place of what Seattle is and the way we should live is etched in history and resonates in the places dotting the map of Seattle, including waters visible and hidden.

ADDENDA:

A preliminary presentation featured Amir Sheikh, one of the primary collaborators on the Waterlines Project, and he discussed much of the history and process of the overall project and methodology along with framing the concept of place names using Lushootseed language, as featured on the Waterline maps (see my post on language here).  One video he showed was “Djidjila’letch to Pioneer Square: From Native village to Seattle metropolis“, a video which takes the viewer “…from Native village to metropolis, the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle has undergone dramatic transformations. This animation provides a bird’s eye glimpse at some of the social, economic, and landscape histories of the neighborhood through time.”

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A great kickoff lecture to the Waterlines class at the Burke Museum featured noted regional geologist and retired UW Professor Dr. Stan Chernicoff and his exploration of The Origins of Seattle’s Landscape.  Having read a bit about the local geology over the years, and having experienced some specifics (particularly the glacial till in Seattle) in my work, I had a rudimentary understanding of the general picture in our region.  Thanks to this lecture, and the philosophy that ‘dynamism is key and change is inevitable’ espoused by Chernicoff, I know a lot more and think about the region in new ways.  From his lecture, I found some interesting links between the larger and longer scales of geologic time and it’s relevance to the Hidden Hydrology project.

His lecture loosely focused around the concept of changing Waterlines around the region, and organized his talk to be roughly chronological and covered a lot of ground – from 1.1 billion years into the past to 250 million years into the future.  Much of the beginning conversation was looking back at the time when Seattle was not coastal but inland as part of the Rodinian Supercontinent (one of the pre-Pangean configurations) and the coastal accretion of lands from the final supercontinent (where to coast was originally at the MT/ID border), and the lands that were added over the past 150 million years (Okanogan Mountains, Cascade Mountains, San Juan Mountains and most recently the Olympia Mountains) through lands being drawn in through subduction.  This means that Washington and Oregon are mere infants in the larger timescale, as Chernicoff mentions, compared with the larger geological history.  The key diagram he showed here is the overlapping sections of the subduction zone in the Juan de Fuca plate and the location of between the Olympics and the Cascade Mountains, with the layers levels and timelines of geological traces over the past 50 million years..

The bit of trivia that Seattle is sitting atop the Olympic Mountains – as you can see by drawing a line through to the Crescent Basalts below us.  The evolution from the last 40 million years in shaping the zone, through Volcanic mudflows (yeah, there was a volcano called Mt. Seattle somewhere near Issaquah) that left lahars 40 million years ago.  This was followed by periods of inundation, and when the land was warm and swampy, which left the deposits of coal near Renton (an interesting Puget Sounds coal history where we ended up shipping to San Francisco).  The marine heritage is also found in the prevalent Blakeley formation, which evolved from a shallow marine estuary from submarine landscape deposits 30 million years ago – and today one can still find fossil shells around many places in the Puget Sound.

There are some interesting facts that illuminate this history and dynamic story of change.  First, while the larger geology set the stage and influences the form, the current lakes, and rivers were a product of the latest glacial period, which Cordilleran Ice Sheet covered the area and the Puget Lobe formed the shape of the current region.  The glacier was around 3000 feet thick, which pushed the sound down almost 1000 feet, and created the depression that allowed water to flow in and formed the modern position of waters.

The rule of thumb is the thickness of depression will be 1/3 the thickness of the glacier.  An interesting section (see right) showing how this cap of ice carved out Puget Sound nestled between the Olympic and Cascade Ranges –  with linear scoured channels forming Hood Canal, Puget Sound, Lake Washington, Lake Sammamish, and created the terrains which Seattle occupied.  These were all relatively north-south oriented which coincides with the intrusion and recession of the Puget Lobe.  It is amazing to think of the larger glaciers in the Midwest, such as Minnesota, which were 3 miles thick and the impacts on that landscape, which for my knowledge, creates the rarity of the north-flowing Red River through where I went to college in Fargo, but also created the over 10,000 lakes that dot the region.

Second, is that because of the glaciation and recession, most of the hills in Seattle are glacial drumlins, (with the exception of West Seattle and Magnolia which are drift uplands).  These hills were deposited upon glacial retreat, which gives them a distinctive steep north side and smoother south side, with alignment north-south as well as the long side corresponds to the direction of ice flow.

You see this in the larger hills in Seattle, as well as the creation of the individual creeks that are woven throughout the north section of the city. The topography carved these smaller drumlin shapes with drainages forming in the spaces at edges adjacent to lakes or between two hills. This formed unique geologic features like like Seward Park in the south section of Lake Washington.

A shapshot of the 1894 USGS Topo map shows the formation on Queen Anne (left) and Capitol Hill (right) with the steeper north edges, along with what is still showing the remnants of Denny Hill south before it and other topographic features were removed from the downtown area.

Third, the two smaller lakes in North Seattle, Bitter Lake and Haller Lake, are true kettle lakes, formed with glacial retreat.  A hybrid of this is Green Lake, which also formed in the glacial retreat along with Lake Union and Lake Washington. Fourth, the glacial movement left a trail of glacial erratics all over the area, and I learned about one of the largest, the Wedgwood Rock, which originally was from miles north and now sits in NE Seattle.  Definitely worth a field trip in the near future.

Fifth, the glacial deposition led to a preponderance of landslides, both with steep slopes, along with the layers of permeable Esperance Sand sitting atop a layer of Lawton Clay, which causes water to flow under the sand and create a slip zone (shown on right side of diagram below).

This is exacerbated by the copious winter rainfalls, which exacerbates the issue via critical liquifaction zones, which  means “…a phenomenon whereby a saturated or partially saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to an applied stress, usually earthquake shaking or other sudden change in stress condition, causing it to behave like a liquid.”  Thus the landslides and earthquakes have shaped the hydrology over time, as valley configurations shift with deposition from streams but also are influenced by these disturbance regimes.

The Magnolia Neighborhood is one of those areas where it has overlapped with the danger of building on steep/unstable slopes, as shown here in a wikipedia image of a slide in 1954 on Perkins Lane, a relatively frequent occurrence in Seattle in particular areas over the years.  Chernicoff’s hint:  Don’t by a house there.

The final part of Chernicoff’s talk focused on the ‘Rise and Fall of Seattle’, with a theme that in our dynamic and ever-changing landscape, “we can’t get accustomed to where water is”.   He mentions four factors that will influence the geology of Seattle, including Local Geology, Regional Tectonic Factors, Regional Isostatic Factors (i.e. glacial rebound), and Global Eustatic factors (i.e. sea level rise).  This was interesting, as the local conditions were all creating conditions that led to raising lands and lower levels of water.  For instance, the two local geological factors were river sedimentation and landslides, both of which add land particularly at the deltas of larger rivers, such as the Skagit and Nisqually Rivers.  As Chernicoff put it, through those two factors, the entire Puget Sound is trying to fill itself in.  The regional factors of tectonic activity are at work, with quakes occurring regularly, which can instantly change the shape of our landscape through an earthquake.  A slower mechanism continues to shift land with raising land due to glacial rebound, bouncing slowly back from being compressed by glaciers thousands of years back.

Inevitably, for all the minor modifications of local and regional factors, the larger impact is, wait for it… yep, global change, in particular the shifts associated with climate change.  The melting of remnant ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, warming causing the thermal expansion of water combined to create higher levels, and lead to massive impacts on the waterlines of Seattle and everywhere else.  He showed as an example a slide of the map Islands of Seattle, a great project by Jeffrey Lin (inspired by the original Burrito Justice San Francisco Archipelago map.) which hypothesized on melting of all global ice, including the Antarctic, which would result in a 240′ rise in sea level, creating a very dramatic new waterline and hydrology for the City.

For Chernicoff, it wasn’t a question of whether this would this happen or not.  His geologists time lens is long and he knows there will be large-scale global shifts.  The question is yes, however, does the time scale of this inundation take 30 years, 500 years, 10000?  It’s an interesting juxtaposition of of deep, long geological time coupled with the dangerous (but possibly earth saving) agency of humans in creating changes in rapidly shorter and shorter time scales, via anthropocentric factors.  While we rightly fret over our fate and try to come up with solutions, the idea of dynamism and constant change is a good perspective. In the end, geological time and processes will, it seems, always win, if we’re around in another 250 million years we can experience a new shift to a larger subcontinent, as the Pacific is getting smaller and the Atlantic is getting bigger, so our coastal woes will change when we’re in the middle again.  Full circle.

This has some implications, obviously for connecting history to present and future, as we are constantly chasing moving targets when we deal with landscape and water.  How will these changes impact our understanding of historical conditions with current ones?  At the short time scale we are considering, does it matter?  Will rapid global and local changes impact our opportunities and ideas in which to engage with planning and design interventions?  Something I’ve not ruminated on long enough to have ideas, but more to come.  And more on Waterlines next week.

ADDENDA

As a follow up, a remembered this link from the Burke on Seattle’s Ghost Shorelines links there’s an interesting Waterlines video showing this evolution of the most recent 20,000 years of the sound – since the ice age.

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