The Cedar River Watershed was an important travel way between eastern and western Washington for thousands of years. It linked Native people of the northwest from eastern and Western Washington together. They created trails from Seattle, to Cedar Lake, and across Yakima Pass to hunt, fish, gather and trade.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s others came. Wagon trails and railroads were built for logging, mining, and to link homesteads and towns. In 1909, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific (CMSP&P) railroad connected Chicago to Seattle, partly passing through the watershed.
In1911, the watershed was officially closed to public access, and the City of Seattle began to acquire property to protect water quality, including using condemnation proceedings to remove homesteads and towns. Trains continued through, but bathrooms were locked while within the municipal watershed. The last train passed through in 1980, and by 1988 the tracks were gone.
During this time, over 620 miles of road were constructed in the watershed, primarily to harvest timber on both public and private lands. Since commercial logging ceased in 1994, many of these roads are no longer needed. We have been decommissioning unneeded roads since 1993, and by 2023, we will have decommissioned hundreds of miles of roads and the culverts that go with them. This will restore the natural shape of the land and improve water quality. The remaining core roads are needed for watershed protection, fire control, and research.
These travel-ways reveal the stories of people who lived, worked and traveled in the watershed for generations. Come listen to some of these stories during the NW Timber Community Songs and Stories (see Cultural History) on June 19th at 2:30.
Not so long ago mining, logging, dam-building, and manufacturing were occurring in the Cedar River Municipal Watershed. All of that activity was supported by a vast network of railroads. The Seattle Municipal Railroad carried heavy loads of supplies, workers and their families between camps. The longest of them all, the Milwaukee Road, carried people all the way from the Midwest to Seattle, partly along the Cedar River through the municipal watershed. Today the rails are gone but a rich history remains. Learn more about the railroad history of the watershed by attending the Railroad History Treasure Tour (see Cultural History).