When Coal Was King: Green River at Eagle Gorge ca. 1911

As noted in last week’s column, 1911 was a pivotal year for water resources in King and Pierce Counties.  That November, heavy rains caused massive flooding in the Green River, which destroyed portions of the Eagle Gorge logging camp near Charley Creek. Somehow the suspension bridge crossing Charley Creek, as seen in this photo wasn’t lost.

Eagle Gorge was located along the Northern Pacific Railroad, which crossed over Stampede Pass on its way to its original terminus in Tacoma. In 1886 this area was named by Northern Pacific officials for the pair of eagles, who had nested in the same tree for over 15 years.

Eagle Gorge was both a railroad camp and a shipping point for logs. Its population fluctuated between 150 and 500, but eventually the town gave way to the dam and resulting reservoir that finally tamed the Green River.  Construction of the Eagle Gorge dam, which included relocating 13 miles of NP Railway, began in February 1959 and was completed by Christmas Day 1961.

The last devastating flood of the Kent Valley occurred in December 1959. The dam’s name Eagle Gorge was changed to the Howard Hanson in recognition of Hanson’s efforts to secure funding for the 235’ high earthen structure.

This photo comes courtesy of JoAnne Matsumura, an Issaquah historian with additional information provided by Bryan King, the recently retired Watershed Manager for Tacoma Water.