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Sewer Pipes, Coal, and the Green River

Michael Deckert | Published on 2/14/2022

Sewer Pipes, Coal, and the Green River

February 12, 2022 trip report

By Michael Deckert


Pulling into Flaming Geyser State Park, I was astounded by the number of cars lining the parking lot and the hordes of people milling around.  Without exaggeration, there were at least sixty people wandering around getting ready for the trip.  I knew Kanako was a popular trip leader but this was crazy!  Insane even.  I sat on the tailgate of my pickup truck and marveled as things got organized.


Finally, as the teeming horde marched off up river it dawned on me this was a scout group on a scavenger hunt.  Kanako’s group of ten arrived a few moments later and she expertly got our trip organized.  Our significantly smaller horde drove off to the put-in, driving through Black Diamond, which leads me to another digression.


Black diamond is a reference to coal.  Eocene sandstones and carboniferous beds line the Lower Green River.  As you paddle through the gorge, you may be interested knowing that these fossilized ecosystems represent “a wide, subsiding coastal plain [with sediments laid down] by westerly flowing, continuously aggrading rivers. Subsidence was equaled by aggradation and the surface of the plain remained near sea level.” Donal R. Mullineaux 1970


Our put-in was at Paradise Ledge, near the Franklin Bridge.  This spot was photographed for a 1912 report “The Coal Fields of King County” by George Watkin Evans.

Screen Shot 2022-02-13 at 7

You may recognize the spot.  It is amazing 110 years later the bed of the river remains recognizable, although the cobble bar on the right is larger now.


A few drops below Paradise Ledge we ran “Coal Car”.


Franklin Mine 10 Before After


Photos provided by Ron Healy show the two primary boulders in Coal Car.  They also show before, and after the bridge to the Franklin 10 Mine was blown up.  The eponymous coal car is in the river.


The challenge run a couple of drops below Kay’s Landing became the de facto run for much of the group.


Then, the surfing wave at the water-pipeline crossing was in.  Kanako, Bob, and John had good surfs.  Have I mentioned Kananko is a great trip leader?  She is organized, conscientious, knowledgeable, and safety oriented.  Fortunately, she lets me paddle anyway.  I convinced Elisha to try the wave and she promptly swam.  Sorry Kanako, oh and also Elisha:-)


The sun hadn’t found Big Wall Left, so we headed down further looking for sun.  We enjoyed a luxuriously warm sunny lunch, lengthy nap, and good conversation.


We had one more swim at the bottom of Island Drop.  The hole in the wall at the Cave Wave was for a sewer pipe and fire brick mine. Per the 1912 report “There are numerous shale beds, near the center of the column; some of these are of economic importance and have been used extensively for making sewer pipe and other vitrified wares. One fire clay bed also occurs within this series.”  It’s on the map in the 1912 report.


The 1912 map also shows Lawsons Drill Hole.  It hit methane gas and burned in a pyre dozens of feet high.  We now know it as “Flaming Geyser”.  You can still light the flame, although today it is a mere flicker.


Kanako’s video of the trip is here:


Annotated 1912 Report Map

Pages from coal fields kingcounty

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