USGS Logo Geological Survey Bulletin 614
Guidebook of the Western United States: Part D. The Shasta Route and Coast Line





On May 11, 1792, Capt. Robert Gray, of Boston, anchored in the great river that he named Columbia, in honor of his ship, and laid the foundation of our subsequent claim to the region which it drains. The Hudson's Bay Co., whose agents early visited the extreme Northwest, discouraged settlers, but at Tumwater, near Olympia, at the head of Puget Sound, a permanent American settlement was established in 1845. Marcus Whitman and other missionaries settled near the site of Walla Walls in 1836, but in 1847 Whitman and his wife were killed by the Indians and the station was broken up. Conflicting claims between the United States and Great Britain were adjusted by a treaty July 17, 1846, which fixed the forty-ninth parallel as the international boundary. Oregon, as all this wild country was then called, became a Territory on August 14, 1848, and on March 2, 1853, the part of it north of Columbia River was separated as the Territory of Washington, which was admitted as a State February 22, 1889. The State of Washington has an area of 69,127 square miles and in 1910 had a population of 1,141,990.

The superb forests of Washington, illustrated in Plate II, are the basis of its chief industries. Within it are 10 national forests, a national park, and a national monument, which together cover more than one-fourth of the State.

PLATE II.—A WASHINGTON FOREST. The trees are chiefly red fir, but a cedar stands at the extreme left. Photograph by Curtis, Seattle.

Coal is the principal mineral resource of Washington. In the production of this fuel the State holds first rank on the Pacific coast, the output in 1913 having been 3,877,891 tons, valued at $9,243,137. Wheat, grown chiefly in the eastern part of the State, is the principal agricultural product. Oats and barley are next in importance. Western Washington, which has a moister climate than the eastern part, produces large crops of hay. The fruit industry is developing rapidly, apples in particular finding good markets in the eastern cities and abroad. The waters of the State are full of fish, and the salmon industry is large. The high mountains and heavy rainfall insure abundant water power, which will no doubt be increasingly utilized.

(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Elevation 20 feet.
Population 237,194.1

Seattle (see sheet 1, p. 20), the metropolis of Washington, the commercial center of the Puget Sound country, and the gateway to Alaska, stands on a neck of land between Elliott Bay (an eastern arm of Admiralty Bay, Puget Sound) and the fresh-water Lake Washington, about 86 miles by steamer and 957 miles by railroad north of San Francisco. Seattle was founded in 1852 and named after a Duwamish Indian chief. A fire that destroyed almost the whole of the business quarter in 1889 and the financial depression of 1893 retarded for a time the growth of the city, but the discovery of gold in the Klondike region in 1897 gave it a new impulse, as it became the shipping point for the new gold fields. It is the western terminus of three railroads and has direct connections with several others. Its population has nearly trebled in 10 years, and it is now one of the largest and most progressive cities of the Pacific Northwest.

1The figures given for population throughout this book are those of the United States Census for 1910. For places that are not incorporated the census figures represent the population of the election precinct, township, or other similar unit; such figures are in this book marked with an asterisk (*)

The city is built on a series of terraces, the commercial quarter standing near sea level and the better residential part occupying a terrace about 500 feet above the sea. From this part of the city there are fine views not only of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound, to the west, but also of Lake Washington and Mount Rainier, to the east. The city has an excellent salt-water harbor, which is being connected by a ship canal with Lake Washington, where vessels may go into fresh water to free their hulls of weeds and barnacles.

The principal exports are coal, timber, hops, and fish. Seattle is the chief point of entry from the Alaskan gold fields, and large quantities of gold dust are brought to the United States assay offices here.

The hills in the lower part of the city have been leveled off by a method used in hydraulic mining; in other words, they have been literally washed away by powerful jets of water. (See Pl. XIV, p. 48.) This method of grading was feasible because the city is built on unconsolidated drift left by a glacier that once occupied the basin of Puget Sound, as described below by W. C. Alden.2

2Thousands of years ago, during what is variously termed the Great Ice Age, the glacial period, or the Pleistocene epoch, the northern part of the North American Continent was covered by vast sheets of ice similar to the great ice cap which now covers most of Greenland. (See fig. 1.) Although at times the ice may have coa lesced in one vast sheet stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Arctic regions southward about to the line of Missouri and Ohio rivers, yet there were three distinct centers of accumulation and spreading. One of these centers was on Labrador Peninsula, one west of Hudson Bay, and one, called the Cordilleran, in the mountains of western Canada. There were also several distinct periods of ice accumulation, each followed by a warmer interval thousands of years in duration, during which the ice is believed to have largely or wholly melted away. There is evidence of at least four of these distinct stages of glaciation, and the last of these is known as the Wisconsin stage.

FIGURE 1.—Map of North America showing the area covered by the Pleistocene ice sheet at its maximum extension end the three main centers of ice accumulation.

At a time which probably corresponds to the Wisconsin stage of glaciation east of the Rocky Mountains the mountains of Washington were largely covered with ice, and a lobe of the Cordilleran ice sheet extended southward from British Columbia into the Puget Sound basin. (See Pl. I.) The name Vashon, from the large island between Seattle and Tacoma, has been applied by geologists to this ice lobe, the last of the Puget Sound glaciers, and to the deposits formed in connection with it. This glacier is believed to have attained a thickness of about 2,500 feet. The ice filled the depressions now occupied by the sound, spread over the elevated plains between the valleys, and extended from the foot of the Olympic Mountains on the west to the base of the Cascade Range on the east. On the south it reached to and covered much of the plains south of Olympia. The ice of this glacier was probably coalescent on the east with that descending the slopes and valleys of the Cascades, to which the name Osceola glacier has been applied by geologists.

These glaciers, on melting, left deposits of clay, sand, gravel, and bowlders (the Vashon and Osceola drift) on the elevated tracts between and around the troughs of the sound, but the deep depressions were unfilled, so that after the ice melted they were occupied by marine waters.

This later drift lies upon stratified sands and gravels (called the Douty gravel, Puyallup sand, and Orting gravel) deposited by waters from the melting of earlier glaciers. Buried in these deposits are beds of lignite, formed from vegetation that grew upon the sands and gravels. These older sands and gravels are in places much weathered and eroded; they were evidently exposed during a long interglacial stage before they were overridden and covered by the deposits of the Vashon and Osceola glaciers.

Beneath all these deposits lies a layer of stiff blue clay, mostly stratified but in places showing no bedding and crowded with subangular stones and large bowlders. This deposit. (known to geologists as the Admiralty till) is supposed to have been formed at a still earlier stage of glaciation, when the Puget Sound basin was occupied by a lobe of the Cordilleran ice sheet, as it was later by another lobe at the Vashon substage. Some phenomena suggest that glaciers occupied the basin still earlier.

One view as to the origin of the deep troughs composing Puget Sound may be stated briefly as follows: The Admiralty ice sheet occupied and overflowed deep valleys which had been cut when the land stood higher. When this ice melted the hilly tracts between the valleys were uncovered first, and the washing in of sand and gravel leveled these up into what are now the elevated intervalley plains. The final melting of the tongues of ice left the troughs to be occupied by marine water. Later came the ice of the Vashon glacier, and this, on melting, again left the main depressions unfilled.

According to another view the disappearance of the Admiralty glacier left the clay, sand, and gravel spread in a continuous sheet over the Puget Sound basin, burying, in large part, the older valleys and ridges. Afterward the land rose about 1,000 feet and streams cut deep valleys in these soft deposits. Then the basin was depressed about to its present level and the ice of the Vashon and Osceola glaciers filled the valleys and overtopped the intervening tracts, and, on melting, left the area thinly mantled with drift and the depressions unfilled.

As the main outlet of the Puget Sound basin is to the north, ice-dammed freshwater lakes were for a time held in the troughs at each stage of advance of the ice front. When the outlet was at last opened the troughs were filled with marine water, which finally reached the level at which we now find it.

Marine shells found at various levels up to 290 feet above tidewater show that since the disappearance of the glacier of the Vashon substage the basin has been further depressed and submerged and then reelevated.

Excursions from Seattle.

Lake Washington, a beautiful sheet of water near the eastern border of Seattle, is about 20 miles long and 2 to 5 miles wide and is entirely surrounded by glacial drift. Small steamers that ply to and fro on the lake afford fine views of the Cascade Range.

Snoqualmie Falls (Pl. III) is 270 feet high and more than 50 feet wide and is well worth seeing. It may be reached by the Northern Pacific line by way of Woodinville, a trip of 54 miles, or by ferry across Lake Washington to Kirkland and thence by automobile, a route that, for small parties, is generally preferable. At the falls Snoqualmie River plunges over a great mass of lava underlain by fossiliferous sediments of the Eocene coal-bearing formation.

PART III.—SNOQUALMIE FALLS, WASH. Height, 268 feet. Falls go over a bluff of ancient lava underlain by sandstone and shale of Eocene age. Photograph by Curtis, Seattle.

In the immediate vicinity of Squak Mountain and Sammamish Lake there are a number of large channels cut and then abandoned by streams from the former glaciers. They may be reached by either of the routes just mentioned but are best seen southeast of Redmond, where Snoqualmie River once entered Sammamish Lake.

The United States navy yard and huge dry dock at Bremerton, about 20 miles from Seattle, are easily reached by steamer across the Sound. A trip to Hood Canal affords a close view of the densely forested Olympic Mountains. The scenic center of this range is Crescent Lake, reached from Seattle by steamer to Port Angeles, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and thence by stage. West of Port Townsend lighthouse, which is passed on this trip, is a bold bluff, 175 feet in height, of stratified glacial sand. Tertiary beds (rich in fossils at Clallam Bay) are well exposed on the southern shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Crescent Lake contains ten varieties of trout, of which two are unknown elsewhere. Mount Olympus, 12 miles away, may be reached from this point with pack outfit. The mountain is a complex mass of metamorphic sandstone, shale, radiolarian chert, glaucophane schist, and greenstone cut by peridotite serpentine, a series of rocks closely resembling what is known as the Franciscan group of the California Coast Ranges.

Between Seattle and Portland trains are operated by the Northern Pacific Railway, Southern Pacific Co., Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Co., Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, and Great Northern Railway, the tracks of all these lines being near together. The Shasta Route trains run over the Oregon-Washington and Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul tracks from Seattle to Tacoma, and over the Northern Pacific from Tacoma to Portland.

On leaving Seattle the train first traverses made land, built out into Puget Sound by washing glacial gravels through flumes from the adjacent hills. A turn to the left,1 2.3 miles from Seattle, brings into view a bluff of whitish shales and sandstones. These rocks are exposed for only a short distance at this place, but a mile farther south they reappear in a more prominent bluff just north of Georgetown.

1Unless clearly otherwise intended, the words right and left as used in this bulletin refer to the sides of the railway track as they appear to a traveler facing the engine in going from Seattle to San Francisco.

Georgetown (Argo).
Elevation 20 feet.
Seattle 3 miles.

These rocks, which were once sediments on a sea bottom, contain abundant fossil sea shells that indicate Tertiary (middle Oligocene) age. The exposure of the beds at this place is due to their having been arched up from their originally horizontal attitude. This arch, or anticline, as geologists term it, may be traced, as shown on the map, from Bainbridge Island southeastward to and beyond Lake Washington.

Some greenish rocks that form a bluff on the left are composed largely of fragments of volcanic material. These beds are fossilferous near the wagon-road bridge at Steels Crossing. They belong to the principal coal-bearing formation of Washington, presently to be described, and are associated with lavas. At Steels Crossing the railroad enters the coal field of western Washington, the largest in the State. The productive portions of the field, however, are miles away, northeast and southeast of this point, about Newcastle and Issaquah, Black Diamond and Franklin, Wilkeson and Carbonado. The field contains many coal beds, three or four of which have been mined, in places to a depth of 2,000 feet. The coal ranges from low-grade subbituminous to anthracite but is mainly subbituminous and bituminous. Coking coals occur at a number of localities and are worked in the Wilkeson region. They are the only coals coked commercially on the Pacific coast.

The fossil plants that are associated with the coal and that represent the vegetation from which the coal was formed contrast strongly with the plants of this region to-day. In the present forest conifers are dominant in size and number, but in the forests of the Eocene coal period conifers were few and palms and deciduous trees were abundant. No palms now grow wild within a thousand miles of the Puget Sound region, so the climate here during the coal period must have been very unlike that of to-day. The coal-bearing rocks crop out at intervals along the western base of the Cascade Range from the international boundary on the north to the Columbia on the south.

Black River Junction.
Elevation 39 feet.
Population 519.*
Seattle 10 miles.

The railroad crosses Black River, the outlet of Lake Washington, at Black River Junction, from which branch lines lead to the Newcastle, Renton, and Black Diamond coal fields. The mine at Renton is only 2 miles to the east (left) of Black River Junction. Two beds are mined here. The thicker one is 2 feet 8-1/2 inches thick and inclines or dips southeastward at an angle of 12°. The coal is subbituminous.

From Seattle to Tacoma the railway follows a broad valley in glacial drift which forms the bluffs on both sides. This valley, which is continuous from Duwamish River to the Puyallup, was left by the melting of the ancient glacier as one of the intricate series of depressions now occupied in part by Puget Sound. It was later partly filled with silt, sand, and gravel by the mountain streams. White River, which enters the valley on a low deposit of gravel and sand which it has itself built up south of Auburn, separates on this sloping deposit, or alluvial cone, into two streams. One, which retains the name White River, flows northward into the Duwamish, and the other, called Stuck River, turns to the south and joins the Puyallup. This division of a stream on the sloping surface of its own deposits tells the story of a long period of successive floods carrying heavy loads of gravel and sand into this old depression. The later floods have spread over the valley the fine silt to which its remarkable fertility is due. A generalized section of the valley is shown in figure 2.

FIGURE 2.—Generalized section of White River valley at Kent, Wash., showing alluvium-filled depression in glacial deposits, including (a) Vashon drift, (b) Orting gravel, (c) Admiralty drift, and (d) deposits of present stream.

Elevation 40 feet.
Population 1,908.
Seattle 17 miles.

Elevation 74 feet.
Population 957.
Seattle 22 miles.

The dominant industry in the vicinity of Kent is dairying, and herds of Holstein cattle may be seen in the fields. There are condensed-milk factories at Kent and Auburn, and the two have a combined average daily output of about 96,000 cans, or 25 carloads. The red-berried elder (Sambucus callicarpa), a showy shrub in June, is likely to attract the traveler's attention along this part of the route. On the left, a mile away, is the bluff of the great gravel pit of the Northern Pacific Railway, which shows the structure of the ancient delta of Green River. Near the pit are the Northern Pacific transfer yards, containing 37 miles of track.

On the (left) side of the valley, 3 miles northeast of Sumner, is the power plant of the Puget Sound Light & Traction Co., where water drawn from Lake Tapps, on the upland a few miles to the southeast, develops 80,000 horsepower.

Elevation 70 feet.
Population 892.
Seattle 29 miles.

As Sumner is approached a yeast factory can be seen on the left. On the right, near the station, is the gravel pit of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, which shows the general composition of the gravel cliffs inclosing the valley.

The Sumner and Puyallup country, once noted for its hops, is now better known for its fresh and canned fruit, especially raspberries and blackberries. Here the Cuthbert red raspberry reaches perfection and is grown in enormous quantities. The Puyallup & Sumner Fruit Growers' Association consisting of 1,400 growers, has its own refrigerating plant and in 1913 shipped 600 cars of fresh fruit to the eastern markets.

North Puyallup.
Seattle 31 miles.

Puyallup is the home of Ezra Meeker, a pioneer who in 1852 with an ox team crossed the plains and mountains to Puget Sound. In 1906 he returned by the same means of conveyance from Puyallup to New York City, marking the Oregon Trail at many points by monuments. The brilliant yellow flowers of the gosmore, or cat's ear (Hypochaeris radicata), a near relative of the dandelion, abound by the wayside. At North Puyallup, with its berry farms, the railroad enters the Puyallup Indian Reservation and crosses the valley. As Tacoma is approached the Indian School for Trades may be seen on the left.

Population 83,743.
Seattle 41 miles.

Tacoma is the western headquarters and the official tidewater terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway. It is beautifully situated on a series of terraces rising about 300 feet above the head of Commencement Bay, the southeast arm of Puget Sound, and commands fine views of the Sound, the Cascade Mountains, and the white cone of Mount Rainier (Pl. IV, A). Its industrial establishments include a lead smelter and refinery, large sawmills, furniture factories, foundries, railway shops, and flour mills. Tacoma carries on an extensive commerce in grain, lumber, coal, tea, silk, and other articles. In the courthouse is the Ferry Museum, which contains, among other things, an interesting collection of Indian baskets, domestic utensils, canoes, and implements of hunting and war.

PLATE IV.—A. MOUNT RAINIER, WASH., FROM SPANAWAY LAKE. Mount Rainier is an extinct volcano 14,408 feet in height. It is a huge pile of lava (chiefly andesite) resting on a plateau of Tertiary and older rocks. Photograph copyrighted by Barnes, Parkland, Wash.

B. PARADISE PARK, ON SOUTH SLOPE OF MOUNT RAINIER. Elevation, 5,500 feet. The rock at the right at the summit is Gibraltar. Beyond the forest is the Nisqually Glacier, at the head of Nisqually River. Photograph by Curtis & Miller, Seattle.

Tacoma is a subport of entry (Port Townsend is the official port) and is second only to San Francisco in the volume of its foreign trade. It has an excellent harbor and 25 miles of water front, and from it transoceanic steamship lines run to Japan and China, to the Philippines and Hawaii, and to London and Glasgow.

Capt. George Vancouver visited the site of Tacoma in 1792, and Lieut. Charles Wilkes surveyed it on his exploring expedition in 1841. Gem. Morton Matthew McCarver founded the present city in 1868. It was at first called Commencement City, but fortunately the name was later changed to Tacoma, an Indian word meaning "big snow mountain" and referring to Mount Rainier.

Excursions from Tacoma.

The principal excursions from Tacoma go to Mount Rainier, which is reached either from the northwest by way of the Wilkeson coal field or from the south by way of Longmire Springs and Paradise Park.

The great naturalist John Muir has justly termed the mountain parks "fountains of life." Appreciation of the beautiful in nature should become more and more an American characteristic, and in these days of national stock taking we do well to inventory as part of the nation's wealth its resources in wild scenery.

The Mount Rainier National Park is unique in possessing the wildest of mountain scenery almost at the gates of two large cities. Less than half a day's travel by rail and stage from Tacoma brings the visitor to the hotel at Longmire Springs, well within the park, and the perfectly graded Government road enables him to reach the lower end of the Nisqually Glacier. Just beyond is Paradise Park, where a tent hotel affords accommodations amid beautiful surroundings at the starting point for the ascent of the mountain.

Mount Rainier is the noblest of the peaks that overlook our Pacific coast. It attains an elevation of 14,408 feet and is the highest peak of the Cascade Range. Like Fujiyama in Japan and Shishaldin in Alaska, it rises majestically with the graceful lines that proclaim its volcanic origin. Its base is set in the green of the wonderful Puget Sound forest, and its snowy cone merges into the clouds, to which it appears to belong rather than to the earth. From this cone a score of radiating glaciers, the largest in the United States, extend down the gashed slopes into the forest below, where they give rise to rushing, roaring rivers of milk-white water. Over 25 years ago James Bryce, later British ambassador to this country, and Karl von Zittel, the well-known German geologist, visited Mount Rainier, and in a report expressed the hope that this peak might be reserved as a national park. It is gratifying to Americans to know that these experienced and discriminating travelers said that they had seen nothing "more beautiful in Switzerland or Tyrol, in Norway, or in the Pyrenees than the Carbon River glaciers and the great Puyallup glaciers."

In Paradise Park (Pl. IV, B), or in some other sylvan retreat on the lower slopes of Mount Rainier, whoever is weary of the city may find true recreation. All about are bright flowers, which throughout the summer follow the retreating snowbanks in a succession of gardens wherein nature displays a profusion of bloom alongside of ice and snow. Below are the forests, dark and almost silent, except where their stillness is broken by the raucous cry of the Clark crow or where some stream roars over the bowlders or splashes musically among the ferns. Above all looms the peak, clad in eternal snow.

The volcanic cone of Mount Rainier has been built up by lava erupted through past ages. Although it is practically extinct, its crater still gives forth steam and sulphurous fumes. The form of the cone has been modified by the destructive work of glaciers, which have cut deep grooves into the mountain sides, and of avalanches, whose occasional thunder testifies to the continued attack of atmospheric agencies.

Mountain goats, marmots, and ptarmigan constitute the fauna of the mountain.

To avoid some heavy grades the Northern Pacific Co., by tunneling Point Defiance and continuing thence by way of Steilacoom, has recently built a new line from Tacoma to Tenino, commonly known as "the loop," thus enabling the traveler to enjoy some coast scenery. This line is 6 miles longer than the old line, but the easier grades offset the difference in distance. From Tacoma the new line follows the shore northwestward for 4 miles, past the flour and saw mills to the lead smelter, affording a good view of Commencement Bay and of the harbor of Tacoma on the right. In the bluffs on the left rudely stratified cross-bedded sand and gravel (Puyallup substage) rest at several points on evenly stratified clays and fine sands with local pockets of gravel and bowlders of the earlier (Admiralty) stage of glaciation. The first good example is on the left, 2 miles from the Tacoma union station, where an arch of the clay beds brings them plainly into view, as shown in figure 3.

FIGURE 3.—Section of bluff 2 miles north of station at Tacoma, Wash., showing (a) an arch of finely stratified sand and clay of the Admiralty glacial drift, overlain by (b) irregularly stratified gravel and sand of the Puyallup substage.

Four miles from Tacoma, near the smelter tunnel, on the left, is a deep clay pit exposing the same formations in the same relative position, but just beyond, at the entrance of the main tunnel, there are on both sides of the cut beds of well-stratified clay and fine sand with patches of gravel lapping up over irregularly stratified and cross-bedded sand and gravel. The tunnel is 4,400 feet in length and 275 feet in greatest depth. In excavating it no hard rocks were cut, but a large tooth, probably of a mastodon, and traces of coaly material were found in sand associated with gravel.

From the west portal the run along the shore for 15 miles affords splendid views of the Narrows and the Olympic Range beyond. Puget Sound has 1,750 miles of shore line, with shelving beach, precipitous cliffs, and dense forests, affording some of the most beautiful inland water views in America. The seepage of much water in many places along a line about 120 feet above low tide marks the contact of stratified clays and overlying gravel and causes the railway much trouble from slides.

As Steilacoom is approached the traveler's attention is likely to be attracted by the pits on the left, from which large quantities of gravel are loaded on scows for shipment to Tacoma and Seatte. The loading is done by an application of the hydraulic method, first devised in placer mining. The gravels as exposed in the pits show distinctly the double set of bedding planes characteristic of delta deposits, namely, a series of beds that dip rather steeply in the direction of the river's flow (foreset beds), overlain by a series of nearly horizontal layers (topset beds). The delta was built out into Lake Russell while the Puget Sound glacier was melting.

Population 430.
Seattle 60 miles.

Steilacoom is one of the oldest settlements in the western part of the State. A monument placed here in 1908 marks the site of the first Protestant church building erected north of the Columbia. It was built in 1853. Scotch broom (Genista scoparia), which has been introduced into this region, flourishes about Steilacoom, and its bright yellow blossoms form a pleasing feature of the landscape.

Seattle 62 miles.

Beyond Ketron the water view widens. The horizontally stratified sands and gravels that have been the prevalent material along the railway for miles are well developed and within view on Ketron and Anderson islands. The dark-spotted rock used to protect the railroad embankment from the southwest storms of winter comes from the vicinity of Bremerton and contains a few fossil shells. Porpoises, seals, and even whales may occasionally be seen in this part of the Sound. A whale stranded near Steilacoom in 1912. At the mouth of Sequalitcher Creek are the wharf and power house of the Dupont powder works, which are just out of sight on the left. The foreset bedding of the old delta gravels is well shown for 3-1/2 miles along this portion of the route. These gravels are succeeded abruptly at 22.1 miles from Tacoma by well-exposed stratified clays (Admiralty) overlain by stratified gravels.

Population 497.*
Seattle 68 miles.

At the mouth of Nisqually River a strip of the present delta nearly a mile wide is alternately covered and left bare by the tides. Three miles up the river valley is Nisqually station, where the main line is crossed by the Grays Harbor branch of the Northern Pacific, leading to Olympia, the State capital, and beyond to the coast. From Olympia another branch runs through Tumwater, the oldest American settlement in Washington, which marked the end of the Oregon Trail.

Near Nisqually station there is a small terminal moraine left by the receding front of the Puget Sound glacier. South of Nisqually River are delta gravels which were deposited by a former stream on the great outwash plains left by the melting glacier. These gravels are well exposed in the railway cut. Near the Nisqually are obtained some of the best forest views on the route. Almost all the lands of the Seattle-Tacoma region except the cultivated river valleys are still forested. The dominant forest tree is the red fir, which covers fully 90 per cent of the heavily timbered area, in places with a stand so dense that the sun can scarcely penetrate to the soil. In a narrow strip along the coast the dominant species is the Sitka or tideland spruce. In the bottom lands, mainly river valleys, the conspicuous trees or shrubs are the red cedar, giant cedar, white fir, large-leaved maple, Oregon ash, cottonwood, western dogwood, vine maple, crab apple, various willows, devil's-club, and salmon berry. On the gravelly plains may be seen the only species of oak growing in the State, the black pine, and from spring until the middle of July a carpet of brilliant flowers.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 8-Jan-2007