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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 Squak Sloughnow the Sammamish Riverhelps put these changes in context. Here's a short historical summary of the river:
  • It was a slow-moving slough that 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 be called the City of Redmond. In the late 1800s, however, so many fish were found at this location that the village was called “Salmonberg.”
  • By the end of the 1960s, the river was straightened to create a “flood water conveyance facility.” The facility was designed to remove stormwater runoff quickly and efficiently. This required that the river be straightened, thus removing the meanders. Shortened to half its original length, the new “Squak” flowed just 14 miles from Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington. This alteration significantly reduced the amount and the quality of habitat available for salmon and other fish and wildlife.
  • After the 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. The restored river still provides flood conveyance, but also offers a natural place in an increasingly suburban landscape.
The Sammamish River will never again be a winding, marshy sloughnor will it be a truly wild river. However, it will provide a place for people to find a natural refuge in a growing city and offer better a habitat for numerous species of fish and wildlife.

Pictures are Worth a Thousand WordsChanges in the Sammamish Valley

To help visualize how Redmond's landscape has changed over time, the Natural Resources Division asked the Seattle nonprofit Common Space to help create a series of time-lapse computer visualizations. They reflect how three different views of the Redmond 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