Thursday, February 4, 2016

Some More Yesler Swamp History Courtesy Of The Friends Of Yesler Swamp

The Friends of Yesler Swamp, located in Laurelhurst, has published a variety of posts regarding the history of Yesler Swamp, including history of the area from settlement, sawmill, town of Yesler, historic photos, videos, source notes and more.

The website says:

Most people know that Henry Yesler once ran a mill in downtown Seattle at the foot of what we now call Yesler way. But what does Yesler Swamp have to do with the famous Seattle pioneer? Find out the answer to this and lots more.

Here is one of the excerpts from their Blog about a canal that was built and resulted in draining too much water from Lake Washington leaving leaving a fringe of cattail marsh and today is the unmanaged wildlife area to its west.


Throughout Seattle’s early history, the pioneers dreamed of digging a canal to connect Lake Washington to the waters of Puget Sound. In the early days, the only route to Lake Union from Lake Washington was the narrow ditch through the isthmus of land between the two lakes. Timber logged on the shores of Lake Washington and the mountains to the east had to be hauled by hand or dragged by horsepower.

One of the many engineering challenges to building a canal between the lakes and Puget Sound was devising a way to lower Lake Washington to the level of Lake Union, allowing ships to pass from the fresh water lakes through a channel to the salt water.[38]

On September 1, 1911, after many years of debate and planning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of a 75 foot ship canal that would extend from Lake Washington through Union Bay, to Lake Union and on to Puget Sound. A set of locks would permit the Corps of Engineers to control the level of Lake Washington and permit ships to pass into Puget Sound. The Cedar River was to be diverted into the southern end of Lake Washington to provide a constant flow of water through the locks.[39]

After four and a half years of construction, the ship canal was completed. On August 26, 1916, the Chittenden locks were closed, and the waters of Lake Washington gushed through the Montlake Cut into Lake Union on its way to Puget Sound.

“Cutting away the coffer dam at the Montlake Cut,” University of Washington, Special Collections UW2382

By October 1916, Lake Washington had dropped 8.8 feet. When the level of Lake Washington fell, the edges of Union Bay – including Yesler Swamp – were drained of water, leaving a fringe of cattail marsh. The last remnant of this original cattail marsh created in 1916 can be seen today in Yesler Swamp and in the unmanaged wildlife area to its west.[40]

Photo by Jean Colley

But the lowering of Lake Washington caused a problem for Yesler’s mill: the millpond where log booms were stored was left high and dry. To permit continued water access to Yesler’s mill, a channel or mill run was dredged. Jim Thompson remembers a mill run deep enough to accommodate a tugboat, stuffed with logs four to five feet in diameter and over 100 feet long.[41]Today the old mill run forms the lagoon in Yesler Swamp that is home to water fowl and great blue heron.

No comments: