In to the Wild Side of the Green-Duwamish River

 Evening on the Green River Gorge

Evening on the Green River Gorge

I recently returned from a seven day whitewater rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho.  Seven days immersed in a the largest roadless area in the lower forty eight states.  The Middle Fork of the Salmon seven day rafting trip starts in the mountains near Stanley Idaho and winds and drops over 98 miles from forested mountains to the tawny grass covered hills of desert country.  In between is a wildness that pulses with the life of the plants and animals that call it their home.  At night from the river you can see the lights of the Milky Way overhead.

Once back home I returned to the Green River Gorge to look for more Otters in one of the last relatively unfragmented east / west corridors of open space near over two million people living in King County.  The gorge has few roads that cross over it’s fourteen mile length.  Three to be exact and a river runs beneath their tall bridges.  The wildlife can travel through the gorge without having to cross a road to get from the Cascade foothills to the lowlands of the Green river valley.

 Reflection of the hwy 169 bridge between Enumclaw and Black Diamond.

Reflection of the hwy 169 bridge between Enumclaw and Black Diamond.

Within that fourteen miles is another kind of intimate wildness that a deep gorge allows.  Native plants like Western red cedars, Huckleberry, Douglas ferns, Pacific yew, and Oregon grape prevail.  Black bear, Bobcat, coyote, elk, deer, salmon, otters, and Osprey call it home and are only intermittently startled by a fishermen or others that rarely visit it's rugged trails.

The sound of water weaves around wind in the branches and the sound of birds calling through the forest.  A night chorus of coyote howls lets us know of their elusive presence. Time passes in seasons. New growth of spring green and baby animals trying to survive to become the next cycle of life.  Summer heat, darting cliff swallows, and a lazy river in a summer slumber. Rich autumn air, flashes of salmon returning to spawn, and colorful orange, red, and yellow leaves.  Bare red branches of Red Twig Dogwood, brown grasses bent under torrential November rains, and a wild dark pulsing river of winter.  The passage of time unaffected by the passage of cars over a highway bridge, and the distant sound of bulldozers building a new city center in the small town of Black Diamond.  

 Autumn on the road to Icy creek.

Autumn on the road to Icy creek.

 

The only questions are what decisions will we make for it’s future?  What if it remained like this?  What if the people of Seattle, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Black Diamond, and Enumclaw, up and down the river, cared about the entire river that passes through their community?  

Salmon pass through Puget Sound into the Duwamish on their journey home in the streams and side channels upstream.  The Duwamish winds through Seattle and then becomes the Green river as it winds from Tukwila, Kent, and Auburn.  Then it leaves the urban areas and enters the farmland in the Green River Valley.  From there it enters the Green River Gorge.

 

Within the Gorge may lie key sources of health for the river, underground springs and a shaded gorge, that cool the temperature of the water as it flows down from the foothills and into the urban cities before flowing in to Seattle.  Cold water that can protect and enhance salmon habitat and the health of our river.

Check out this article: Study finds surprising source of Colorado River water supply. More than half of the rivers in the Upper Colorado Basin originate as groundwater, USGS says.

 Large Spring in the Gorge.

Large Spring in the Gorge.

It is still possible to save our river but the entire Green-Duwamish needs you to be it’s voice and advocate for conservation.  Follow this blog for stories from the Green River Gorge and new maps of undocumented trails that can lead you to discover this wonderfully wild side of of the Green River and Seattle’s only river, the Duwamish. www.greenrivergorgegreenway.org

 Volunteer planting native plants along the Duwamish near West Seattle.

Volunteer planting native plants along the Duwamish near West Seattle.