Flaming Geyser State Park

rapidsThe Green River Gorge is beautiful, but dangerous. I’ve been warned that it’s not safe to swim this section, so I’m only entering at a few safe places. I may come back later to swim more of the gorge if I can get some expert advice. The gorge is a miracle within King County, with high canyon walls, a beautiful wild river, and some rapids that can be exciting during high water. One photo caption calls it the “Grand Canyon” of the Green and I have to agree.

It’s hard to imagine that the Green River Gorge is connected to the Lower Duwamish. Yet the water in the gorge will flow down to the Duwamish in about two days! There could not be a sharper contrast between two sections of river. While shooting some video, I swam in the gorge one day and the Lower Duwamish right after. I went from being showered by a high waterfall in the pristine gorge to bumping alongside rusty barges and huge cranes in a noisy, gritty urban port. Is it possible to reconcile these two opposite poles that are the Duwamish?

Swim Duwamish 4 VideoThere are lots of fish here, including some big ones. I also saw a family of river otters, a frog, and a crayfish (aka crawdad—looks like a small lobster) eating a dead fish (see video). The river otters were funny, two little ones climbed onto the back of the bigger otter (mom?) and they swam away. I tried to get them on video, but they escaped my camera.

River insects are also interesting. Most of the plant life in a small river grows on the surfaces of rocks. Insects are the grazing animals (herbivores) that eat the plants and provide food for predators like fish. I’ve been seeing grazing insects since I started my swim, and today I settled down to get some good video of them. Here the main insects are caddis flies. They’re related to moths but the caterpillar (larval) stage lives in water inside of protective cases made out of small rocks glued together with silk. In the close-up video you can see their legs and mouths as they scrape algae off rocks to eat.

fish4Moving downstream, the river comes out of the gorge and enters Flaming Geyser State Park, a lovely place with great river access. That’s a bit unusual for the Green River. It’s been difficult to find good places to get in and out of the river.

People are out enjoying the river thanks to the good access at Flaming Geyser State Park. There are quite a few groups of people floating downstream in inner tubes and small rafts, often carrying drinks. It’s no surprise to find a few bottles and cans on the bottom of the river.

frogI wonder if the people floating above know that there are lots of fish swimming just a couple of feet below? It’s an interesting contrast to look at the different worlds of people and fish. From the view of a fish it’s hard to recognize the people, they’re just floating blobs with paddling hands.

I’m propelled mostly by moving water here. There are only a few big pools where I have to swim to move downstream. But this will change soon. The Green River flattens out and slows down after Flaming Geyser. There is a transition here in the river’s path down from the high mountains to Puget Sound.

The flatter landscape below Flaming Geyser provides people with more options for using the land. Farm fields surround the river just downstream from Flaming Geyser. It’ll be interesting to see how the river changes as the landscape changes.