Duwamish River, Washington

July 14, 2016


Duwamish (1)

Photographer: Rebecca Roush
Summary Author: Rebecca Roush

Like all drainage basins, the Duwamish River, in Washington State, was shaped by the region’s geology. This rich cataclysmic history included glaciers, Mount Rainier mudflows, tectonic activity and floods. The perfect natural disaster movie!

The real disaster, however, has been the river’s history with humans. In the early part of the last century the course of this river was changed and deepened to make it more useful for industry. Until 1911 the Duwamish River was 9 mi (14 km) long as it made its shallow and winding way into Puget Sound. Rechanneling turned it into a straight, 5 mi (9 km) fresh-water highway and dumping ground, with only a fraction of its original habitat remaining.

The lower estuary of the Duwamish River has now been designated a Superfund site and many organizations have been working to restore portions of the estuary to something resembling its original natural state. This photograph was taken from a Shoreline Access at Public Street Ends site on the Duwamish River. In 2011, this location was developed as “an opportunity to increase public access to the shoreline/water environment". When standing there, it's virtually impossible to imagine what the Duwamish might have looked like prior to 1911. Photo taken on July 3, 2016.