Monday, December 13, 2010

Duwamish Hill Preserve, December 2010

Duwamish Hill Preserve (Beaver Monster Hill)

We don’t always go to the mountains. Sometimes we can’t afford to fill the gas tank, other times the weather is dire enough that staying closer to home seems like a better idea.

When the budget is lean and winter days are short – we walk. In addition to Alki Point, Lincoln Park, Longfellow Creek, Schmitz Park and other parks nearby we’ve walked around Georgetown, South Park (before they dismantled the bridge), Allentown (a small community under the umbrella of Tukwila), the Duwamish Longhouse on West Marginal Way and nearby a few abandoned, ancient houses that intrigue (sorry, no trespassing allowed)

We’ve also walked the Green River trail (from Boeing) to Allentown, stopping along the way where historical tidbits of earlier times can still be seen (and photographed). In short, we won’t to run out of “material” for many years – if ever. Mostly, though, these urban walks raise more questions than provide answers.

Take today for example – we wanted something close to home (the Pineapple Express was due to arrive) so decided to explore around Tukwila (Allentown) and see what we could find. On our way to the Tukwila Community Center we noticed what appeared to be a small park (no signage but obvious parking available). Since one of our objectives was to find Beaver Monster Hill and since the parking area was right under a hill with a trail on it, we figured this was it.

The hill is sometimes referred to as Poverty Hill by locals and is also known as Beaver Monster Hill. Silverback related the Native American story of Wishpoosh, the Beaver Monster to me as we walked. Long ago the Beaver Monster lived in Lake Cle Elum and according to the legend ate all the salmon in the lake on which the Native Americans depended. People were starving so Coyote (the trickster) and Wishpoosh fought – as they battled they chewed their way south to where the Columbia River meets the ocean. Finally Coyote managed to kill Wishpoosh and from that time the people could eat the salmon and continue to live along the river. Beaver Monster Hill is al result of that great battle.

If you’re interested in finding the hill you can follow our convoluted directions, get help from Mapquest or refer to recently published “Hiking Washington’s History” by Judy Bentley. From Seattle we headed south on I-5 and got off at Exit 158, turned west to Interurban Avenue, turned south onto Interurban (you can see the hill from Interurban Avenue but not the park). From Interurban we turned left onto South 115th Street – Duwamish Riverbend Hill (is on the left side of 115th Street).

The park appears to be open despite lack of signage; there is an obvious parking area. From the parking area a trail climbs a gentle grade with steps to the summit. Along the way there are benches where one can sit. There are views to the north of the Seattle skyline and on a clear day, probably views of Mount Rainier to the south.

From the summit we enjoyed views of the tannin-hued Duwamish River, bordered with industrial sites interspersed with pockets of forest and bottomlands. Once upon a time fishing villages lined the river; today the hill is surrounded by the hustle and bustle of industry – traffic on Highway 509, airplanes, semi-trucks and light rail hurtle by - it is reassuring to look down upon the Duwamish River as it still makes its way to Puget Sound. The river lives on despite us.

After the hike we looked on The Internet for additional information about the park; hence an article by the Cascade Land Conservancy (the 8-acre park opened in September this year). They refer to the park as the Duwamish Hill Preserve; the project took 10 years to complete. We didn’t count the steps; they say it takes 80 steps to reach the top. In addition to benches and trails a storytelling area was also built. The City of Tukwila was able to purchase the land thanks to the Cascade Land Conservancy and volunteers who put in many hours clearing the land of ivy, blackberries and trash. Even Foster High School students got involved in helping to preserve the site - they wrote a play about the hill and how it has changed over time (the students donated over $1,000 in ticket sales to the cause).

According to the CLC the site is estimated to be about 40 million years old (older than Mount Rainier). In the geological past the hill was underwater; marine fossils have been discovered there. Today the hill is a pretty place with rocky outcroppings covered with moss, sword ferns and in spring, wildflowers.

For additional information or to volunteer contact the Cascade Land Conservancy at

No comments:

Post a Comment