Other Cool Stuff

Environmental History of the Sammamish Valley

It's hard to visualize how dramatically Redmond's landscape and watersheds have been altered since the Riverboat "Squak," first started running up and down the Sammamish River in 1884. Of course, at that point there wasn't a town of Redmond, but local Indian Tribes and a few early European settlers were already here.

A Brief Summary

The history of the then Squak Slough --and now Sammamish River-- helps put these changes in context. To summarize the history of the river:
  • It was a slough. The a slow moving Squak Slough flowed 28 miles from Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington, and meandered across the Sammamish River Valley’s floodplain. On its way, it passed a place that would later become called the City of Redmond. In late 1800’s, however, so many fish were found at this location that this village was called, “Salmonberg.”
  • We build a conveyance facility. By the end of the 1960’s, the river was straightened to create a “flood water conveyance facility.” Designed to remove stormwater runoff quickly and efficiently, the straightening removed the meanders. Shortened to half its original length, the new “Squak” flowed just 14 miles from Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington. This alternation greatly reduced the amount and the quality of habitat available for salmon and other fish and wildlife.
  • Now it is becoming something like a river. After straightening the Squak Slough became what is now known as the Sammamish River. The City of Redmond and neighboring jurisdictions are slowing restoring the river in the 1990s. The restored river still provides flood conveyance, but also offer natural place in an increasingly suburban landscape.
The Sammamish River will never again be a winding, marshy slough, nor will it be a truly wild river, but it will provide a place for people to find a natural refuge in a growing City, and will provide better habitat to numerous species of fish and wildlife.

Pictures are worth a thousand words--Changes in the Sammamish Valley

To help visualize how Redmond's landscape has changed over time, the Natural Resources Division had Seattle non-profit Common Space help create a series of time-lapse computer visualizations that show how three different views of the City would have changed from 1890 through 1936, to the year 2000.

  • Looking northwest from Lake Sammamish, down the Sammamish River Valley
    1890 - 19362000
  • Looking northeast across the Sammamish River Valley towards downtown Redmond
    1890 - 19362000
  • Looking southeast from the location of today's Willows Run Golf Course, down the Sammamish River Valley towards Lake Sammamish and Mount Rainier
    1890 - 19362000

(Some of the links on this page are pdf formatted pages. You may need to obtain the free Acrobat Reader to view and print.)


Early Historical Maps

  • Surrounding Area 1897
  • Snohomish/Seattle Area 1897
  • Redmond Area 1897
  • Sammamish River Alterations