This state park is the beginning of the Green River Gorge.
Today’s visit featured a dozen or so Hummingbirds rocketing around in an insane “pattern” collecting sugar. And discovery of a circa 1965 Ted Williams endorsed Sears and Roebuck tricycle with flowers filling the carry all basket. This is the first time I brought the 300 f2.8. It makes a super out of focus background for some things.
Still on the property of the Green River Resort owned by Jim Carter.
By Mike Archbold, King County Journal reporter, 2003
The 12-mile-long Green River Gorge is the last river-cut rock canyon in Western Washington, slashing down 300 feet into the Puget Sound’s 50-million-year- old sub-tropical past. A wild place of natural wonder just east of Black Diamond, the gorge remains isolated, allowing it to survive man’s intrusion. Coal miners came and went, their passage marked now by a ghost town, pieces of cable, and rock-filled mine entrances. A coal seam, part of a mine abandoned decades ago, still burns today.
Fossils, petrified wood, even a petroglyph are found here by the rafters and kayakers, fishermen, hikers and berry pickers who know the gorge’s beauty.
BLACK DIAMOND — In the depths of the Green River Gorge, a giant black and brown sandstone rock rises at a steep angle like a whale breaching from a white-flecked green sea. The sandstone glistens with the record of the 50 million-year-old subtropical climate that once covered this land. On its flank, a tiny dipper bird goes about its business, clinging to the vertical face. Elsewhere in the gorge, rock cliffs give way and spruce and cedar trees mark the steep, forested sides, feathering the rim 150 to 300 feet above the twisting river. Black bear, deer, elk, cougar and bobcat easily find seclusion here. Kingfishers, mergansers and even an eagle or two commonly ride the narrow airspace. Always there is the moving water, sometimes roaring as it crashes over rocks, sometimes silently pooling in a rocky grotto or lapping at a small rocky beach.
From the deck of a rubber raft bouncing through the Green River Gorge on a winter day, there is no mistaking that this is a special place — a river-carved canyon wilderness unique in Western Washington.
A call to preservation
Thirty-four years ago, farsighted conservationists like Wolf Bauer, together with state park planners, moved to preserve the gorge and the lands along its rim. Bauer understood its uniqueness. He and three other members of the relatively new Washington Foldboat Club (now the Washington Kayak Association) were the first to kayak the gorge in the 1950s. They rode in German-built collapsible boats, the forerunner of the modern kayak. “This canyon didn’t belong in this area,” Bauer, now 91, said in an interview at his Vashon Island home as he recalled that first canyon tour. It was summer and the water was low, he said. Most Western Washington rivers flow through soft glacial till in wide, meandering valleys. But Bauer said the Green River cuts for 12 miles through 50 million-year-old bedrock. The only two other river-cut rock canyons in Western Washington were on the Cowlitz River; dam reservoirs now cover them. The trip that most kayakers now make in three or four hours used to take two days. Bauer and his companions photographed the gorge and explored where miners once worked.
In a 1966 newspaper article that became a call to action to preserve the gorge, Bauer, an engineer and geologist, wrote: ”This Green River Gorge is, in reality, a fantastic corridor of natural history into which curious man can descend to browse among the open shelves of geological displays. Since many of these shales and sandstones were laid down millions of years ago during tropical climates, the most casual visitor will be particularly intrigued to see firsthand imbedded fossils and fossil imprints of shells, vegetation and … carbon remains and coal seams.” Many people in the Puget Sound area didn’t even know the gorge existed. There was talk at that time about building a dam in the gorge. “I got there in time,” said Bauer, who had also written a proposal to the state to preserve the gorge.
His call was heard.
A 1968 study of the gorge by the state Parks and Recreation Commission recommended a conservation area to forever protect the gorge’s unique ecological and geological reserve. It called for an aggressive program of land purchases and development of public parks at its east and west ends. It recommended interpretive centers to explain the gorge’s geologic, human and ecological history. It proposed both hiking and equestrian trails along its rim. 80 percent preserved. In 1968, the state owned no part of the gorge’s 12-mile length. Starting in the 1970s, the state purchased the private Flaming Geyser Resort at the west end of the gorge and turned it into Flaming Geyser State Park. In 1983, Kanaskat-Palmer State Park was formed at its east end, effectively bookending the gorge. Palmer Coking Coal agreed to sell several sections of land in the gorge that became the centerpiece of the conservation area.
The state now has acquired nearly 80 percent of the land in and along the gorge that was identified in the Green River Gorge Conservation Area Plan. The plan for the 14 miles of river is still a guiding light today. Randy Person, who until a few months ago was the State Parks regional planner for the gorge conservation areas, said that from 1969 through 2001 the state spent $7,757,065 to acquire 2,158 acres. The job is not done yet, and each year the land becomes more expensive. Person recalled that in 1971, the state bought 40 acres for $15,000. In 1993, the state bought 35 acres in the conservation area for $162,000. There still are no gorge trails for man or horses; don’t expect any in the near future. The planned interpretative centers are non-existent.
A number of critical areas remain in private hands, including the Green River Gorge Resort. Here the river squeezes between high rock cliffs and house-size rocks. Overhead the 150-foot high Green River Gorge Bridge offers a tantalizing view of the most striking section of the gorge. Owner Jim Carter closed the resort in the mid-1980s out of insurance liability concerns and has closed off his access to the gorge below.
The resort property is also home to some 50 residents who live in cabins, RVs and mobile homes. A handful of homes intrude elsewhere on the gorge, their decks and roof lines a jarring note to purists floating between the canyon walls. They are all on the north side of the river. On the south side of the gorge, the Palmer Coking Coal Co. has platted six 15-acre residential parcels on property that sits on the rim above the state’s Icy Creek steelhead rearing pond. Palmer mined in the gorge into the 1950s, closing the last underground coal mine in the state at nearby Ravensdale.
The morning after a big rainstorm shows off the glint of drops on the flowers. The dog is a very friendly guy who comes out to meet you