by Youth Ocean Advocate Abby S.
If there’s one thing Seattleites aren’t, it’s clueless. We’re savvy. We’ve got Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, and Fred Hutch cancer research facilities. That said, when Seattle was young, our “innovation” was destructive: we conquered and carved out nature for our benefit. In that part of history lies the Duwamish River’s story.
We re-routed the Duwamish to form a direct path to Elliot Bay. However, this change didn’t account how the former curves helped control the speed of the river, so it became a torrent of water that its inhabitants were unused to. The Black River—which used to feed into the Duwamish—is now nothing more than a wetland because of the change in topography. Fortunately, mallards, swallows, and great blue herons thrive in and near the still waters of the former river, and beavers too, albeit well-hidden.
Industry dominated the riverbanks and to this day contributes to pollution that makes fish living in the Duwamish dangerous to eat. Signs along the riverbank warn that while salmon passing through the river are safe to eat because they are there briefly, shellfish and bottom-feeding fish should never be consumed because they live near and in the contaminated soil.
The Duwamish isn’t necessarily the most beautiful river ever, either. In some places, you can see oil and bits of plastic floating in the currents, but there are many cleanup efforts, including those from the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and the Duwamish Tribe. It’s vital to keep our rivers clean for aesthetics, our environment, and our own safety. Learn more and volunteer to keep our community healthy.