Tour offers a rare look into Seattle’s drinking water supply
August 8, 2012
By Michele Mihalovich
Seattle’s primary water supply is right in our backyard, way above North Bend at the Cedar River Municipal Watershed, and folks from all across the U.S. can to get a glimpse of the 91,000-acre area normally closed to the public.
The $5-$10 Tap Tours, offered by Seattle Public Utilities throughout August, begin at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center, and 20 people, some from as far away as Connecticut and Arizona, set off Aug. 3 in a bus with naturalist Pierre LaBarge to learn about the history of the watershed, as well as hoping for a peek at elk and black bears.
The group, however, viewed vultures and mosquitos, which technically count as wildlife encounters.
The tour bus travels through what used to be a pretty “hopping” place in its peak, the town of Cedar Falls, which used to house all the engineers and workers building the masonry dam and wooden pipes that used gravity to get the water to Seattle.
The group stood on top of the dam, while LaBarge told them about a slight design flaw in the dam that resulted in a slow leak, which eventually flooded the town of Moncton — what we know today as Rattlesnake Lake.
“It took three to six weeks for it to flood,” he said. “It’s often credited as the slowest flood ever in the history of King County.”
The tour bus headed through forest stands of Douglas fir, hemlocks and cedars, carpeted with ferns and moss, and parked underneath the giant pipe that now takes water to Seattle.
The group then took a short walk down to look at the Cedar Falls.
People in the group gave various reasons for taking the tour.
Linda Barnett, of Seattle, said she heard it was a great tour, “Plus, I was just curious about where our water comes from.”
Her husband Mark Barnett came for an entirely different reason.
“This is the Holy Grail, the forbidden fruit for a hiker,” he said. “I hike this area all the time, but we’re never allowed in here. I just really wanted to see an area that’s normally closed to the public.”
And, he said, he was not disappointed.
Neither was Renae Sahmel, of Duvall.
“The tour was well worth the price,” she said. “I think the educational history and the naturalist’s humor was the best part.”
Michele Mihalovich: 392-6434, ext. 246, or firstname.lastname@example.org.