Green River Gorge Greenway

Conservation photography exhibit as a tool to promote conservation of the Green River Gorge Mountains to Valley Greenway located southeast of Seattle Washington

 The Green River Gorge Mountains to Valley Greenway is a landscape level project I spearheaded to continue protection of the 14 mile long Green River Gorge located southeast of Seattle.  I realized that much of the river is in a remote Gorge which is one of the attributes that makes it so special but also an attribute that keeps it hidden.  I used my conservation photography to do public outreach and education.  I've had numerous photography exhibits of the Green River Gorge and surrounding areas.  I've also taken the river to individuals, organizations, governments, and key decision makers to create a visual reference for them to understand why the area is worth protecting.
 
In 2000 I realized that while 80% of the land within the original Green River Gorge Conservation Plan had been preserved there still remained 20% of the lands in the plan that were not part of state parks.  Also there were key uplands along the river that needed to be preserved in order to connect the State Parks land to other existing public lands and to protect the cold cool springs that spilled into the river along the Gorge.  The springs actually cool the temperature of the river as it flows from the Cascades down to the farm lands, then into urban sprawl of cities, and then eventually to the industrial landscape of the lower Green river known as the Duwamish.  It is such a critical link in the ecological health of the river and has been threatened by the insane building boom of the last thirty years.

The Green River Gorge Mountains to Valley Greenway is an attempt to elevate this landscape level conservation effort and bring resources and passionate people to continue the effort long after the individual people and groups are gone.

I can't lay claim to the original idea. That was the developed by northwest mountaineering and kayaking legend, Wolf Bauer.  Wolf Bauer was the first person to kayak the Green River Gorge and was so inspired he went to Olympia to work to protect it. He worked with State Parks in the 1960s to create the Green River Gorge Conservation Plan that would direct conservation and acquisition of land along the fourteen mile long gorge.

A Ribbon of Wilderness in Our Midst
By Wolf Bauer
 
Recalling the high points in one’s life becomes a growing pleasure with age. There are those that you cherish and those that others have recognized. Of those I own, the Green River Gorge experience overshadows all the others.
In a long-term future, a preserved Gorge will be a legacy that my generation will, indelibly, have left behind. As a nice thought and treasure.  
 
The impact of the Gorge on my psyche remains undiminished. What was it about those first exploratory paddles into the hidden museum of nature? Was it its unbelievable isolation in the midst of a million people? Was it the antiquity of its ancient walls, hinting at massive faulting and erosion over millennia? Was it the sculptured images and fossilized imprints of ancient life forms from both above and below the seas? I think it was the realization that there are “Cathedrals of Nature” that inspire awe and humility far beyond any man invented religious symbols and beliefs.
 
Down its cliffs and gentler draws remain untouched first growth stands of evergreens, hiding moss and fern covered grottos, and myriads of tiny waterfalls seeping from the canyon walls. Freshness and moisture permeate the floor of the canyon in its shadowy twilight to nurture rain forest type vegetation, water oriented birds, and man’s awed senses within its massive cathedral like halls. Placid pools like miniature chain lakes create an occasional corridor of silence into which only faint and muffled hints of rushing water may penetrate fro around the bend. Disturbed but by an occasional kingfisher, merganser, water ouzel, or trout rippling the water’s impatient slack.
 
Thus, represents an ecological entity, which owes its close-in and unique existence and character entirely to its canyon walls rising up to 300 feet above the riverbed. As such, it supports a biologic community in a living laboratory that can sustain itself indefinitely into the future without man’s help, even in the midst of any civilization encirclement behind its protected canyon rims. It can probably do this better here than in any other instance and site in the region.
Chinook Salmon at the Mouth of Icy Creek. 40-60 cfs of cold, clear water flows from Icy Creek into the Green River providing healthy water temperatures for salmon
Shangri-la Spring. One of many large underground springs that come out of the ground and flow into the Green River Gorge
Icy Creek Falls.  One of a series of waterfalls from where Icy creek comes out of the ground at the top of the Gorge and then cascades down to the river.
Stone and Water in Icy Creek
The Green River Keeps on Flowing.  Summer flows in the Gorge.  In stream Flows were protected by Friends of the Green and American Whitewater
River Rafters at Paradise Falls.  Paradise is one of many stunning areas in the Gorge.  This area is now open to the public through private land. 
Rafting Below Cathedral Rock.  One of my favorite spots on the river.  Now very hard to get to because of a landslide.
"A Whale Breaching Through a White Flecked Green Sea" — Mike Archibold, Tacoma News Tribune.  A very popular swimming hole near the Green River Gorge Resort.
Icy Creek Near Confluence with the Green
Ethereal Green.  A unique event caused by torrential rains and flooding in the uplands along the Green River Gorge
Winter Flood Waters.  Part of the upland expression of Icy Creek during flooding.
Hanging Gardens. Another great swimming hole along the Gorge.  There is an unmarked trail to access this location on the south side of the river.  Although State Parks has owned land in the Gorge since the 1960s very little of the area has seen any development of trails, signage, and other infrastructure.
Winter at Paradise Falls.  The river is different during every season.  In the winter it feels even more wild.  The increased flows slippery rocks make it less safe but there is a cold winter solitude.
Whitewater Boaters Taking a Break at Paradise Wave.  A favorite play spot for whitewater rafters and kayakers.
Young Kayaker Playing at Paradise.  Paradise marks the half way point between the upper and lower gorge.  The upper gorge is expert level whitewater.  The lower section is intermedicate.  The Green River Gorge is considered one of the top 10 white water rivers in Washington State and one of the top 50 in the U.S. with its classic drop and pool rapids.
Big Foot along a lonely stretch of river
Stone Bowls.  Wolf Bauer took a photo of this same rock formation forty years before. It looked the same then.
Diversion Dam at the Bottom of Icy Creek.  The Pautze Pond Hatchery creates this diversion dam for the salmon rearing ponds.  The hatchery is probably the only reason that Icy Creek has any protection around it's headwaters at all.
Earth Star Fungus.  One of the many interesting things I've found in the forests around the Green River Gorge
A Winter Hike Along the Green River Gorge Rim.  One of my many guided hikes along sections of the Gorge. I've enjoyed ntroducing people to the landscape and the river over the last 15 years..
Glacial Kettle.  An upland expression of Icy Creek.
Sunset Under the Highway 169 Bridge.  Thousands of people drive over that bridge everyday completely oblivious to the incredible river carved canyon that lies beneath
Local Fisherman on the Green.  I got a  call a few years after this photo was taken.  It was featured in a newspaper article I wrote about the Gorge.  The woman called to say he had died of cancer and could I send her a copy of the photo as he loved fishing in that section of river.  I'm glad I was able to capture that moment.
Fall Fishing at Icy Creek.  Fishermen have been some of the best advocates for the Green River.  Trout Unlimited has been actively involved in issues that affect fishing in the Green River.
Sylvia and Her Dog Under a Giant Douglas Fir.  The near old growth forest along the gorge is such important habitat for many animals. Especially now as the pressures of more development drive them out of their traditional homes.
Local Wildlife— Coyote.  I've seen this guy along with black bears, bob cats, river otters, elk, deer, mountain beavers, and even a cougar.
Pacific Tree Frog
Mercury and the Nozzle at Low Water.  This is THE rapid on the Green during higher water when it is whitewater boating season.  Here it is at summer flows when it seems tame and less epic.
Autumn at Paradise Falls.  Beautiful fall color changes the landscape with dramatic splashes of color right before the winter grey sets in.
Spring at Paradise Falls
A Summer's Exploration.  Every bend in the river is different.  This hidden walkway through large stones that lean together creates a magical pathway along the river.
Fishermen Along a Lonely Section of River Gorge.  Rugged, remote, wild.  All great descriptive words for this river gorge.  On this day my friend and I had hiked up river bouncing from river stone to river stone with my two dogs.  We were so surprised to see these fishermen along this remote section.  They were equally as surprised to see us.  The remoteness of the gorge keeps it special and you feel like you have earned the right to be there because of the energy it takes to hike into it's depths.
Stone and Water.  Everywhere in the gorge is stone and water.  The interplay between the two has carved this wonderful gorge.
River Otter Bend.  During exploration of this area I found evidence of river otter feasts.  Cray fish shells everywhere in the large rocks that poke out of the water like stone islands. The river otters lie on the rocks and eat their catch.
Paradise Alley.  An alley of deep jade green water lined with tan sandstone and hanging gardens of ferns, wild huckleberry. salal, and Cedars.
Honeycomb Sandstone.  The interaction of different mixes of sandstone create different results along the river.  Here the wind and water have formed honeycomb shapes in the white sandstone.
Stone Pool. Errosion has created this bowl in the stone that holds a mirror of water reflecting back the forest on it's surface.
Icy creek in the Forest Cover.  Icy creek forms a smaller side canyon along the gorge. It cuts through deep forest of giant Cedars, Douglas Fir, and Western Hemlock.  It flows by an open landslide area created by the constantly moving earth unleashed by the force of water along a bedrock of sandstone.
Romulus's Tombstone at the Old Franklin Cemetary.  The remanents of a once booming mining town of 1100 people.  There passage now marked by a grave yard and stone foundations of long gone building.
Maidenhair Ferns along the stone cliffs along the river.  They catch the cascading rain water that falls along the rough edges of the cliff's surface.
The Curve of 150 Million Year Old Sandstone below Hanging Gardens and the swift flight of cliff swallows
Autumn Leaf
Undulating Maidenhair Ferns
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