Boaters have a long history of working for protection of the Green River Gorge. Explored by Wolf Bauer and members of the Washington Kayak Club (one of AW's original founding clubs) in the mid-1960's boaters quickly realized the Green River Gorge was one of the most spectacular river canyons in the Puget Sound Region. Having come too late to protect the Cowlitz River Canyons that were dammed for hydropower production, Wolf turned his attention to protecting the Green. He created a slideshow and approached Washington State Parks to gain their assistance in preserving the area. In a 1966 Seattle Times article Wolf described the gorge as “a ribbon of wilderness in our midst.” Between 1965 and 1968 the state received federal money to purchase available property in the gorge for conservation purposes.
Through the work of Wolf, the Green River Gorge was recognized by the state legislature (RCW 79A.05.700)
The Green River Gorge, between the town of Kanasket and the Kummer bridge in King county, is a twelve mile spectacularly winding gorge with steep to overhanging rock walls reaching heights of from one hundred fifty to three hundred feet. The beauty and natural features of the gorge are generally confined within the canyon rim. This twelve mile gorge area contains many examples of unique biological and geological features for educational and recreational interpretation, almost two miles of Eocene sediment rocks and fossils are exposed revealing one of the most complete stratographic sections to be found in the region. The area, a unique recreational attraction with more than one million seven hundred thousand people living within an hour's driving time, is presently used by hikers, geologists, fishermen, kayakers and canoeists, picnickers and swimmers, and those seeking the solitude offered by this unique area. Abutting and adjacent landowners generally have kept the gorge lands in their natural state; however, economic and urbanization pressures for development are rapidly increasing. Local and state outdoor recreation plans show a regional need for resources and facilities which could be developed in this area. A twelve mile strip incorporating the visual basins of the Green River from the Kummer bridge to Palmer needs to be acquired and developed as a conservation area to preserve this unique area for the recreational needs of the region.
While work continues to protect the scenic character of the gorge, the growing water needs of the region continue to place threats on the gorge. A recently constructed second supply pipeline diverts additional water from the Green River which has been a concern for boaters, fishery interests, and conservation groups. Protection of instream flows and water conservation remains a priority.
1) Protecting existing flows through the Green River Gorge.
If there is no water in the river boating opportunities cease to exist. As pressure on our water resources continues there is constant demand for water from rivers like the Green. American Whitewater worked with Friends of the Green and the City of Tacoma on a study to document instream flows necessary for recreation.
2) Protecting and enhancing public access to the river.
Members of the boating community were leaders in the process to secure protection and funding for state parks that now provides key public access at Kanaskat-Palmer and Flaming Geyser. These access points are now enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year who come out to enjoy the Green River for boating, tubing, swimming, and picnicking. Local affiliate Washington Kayak Club has worked with the local land owner to provide access at Franklin Bridge which separates the upper and lower gorge. Friends of the Green and members of Washington Recreational River Runners provided leadership in securing access along the Headworks Road, which was not public. A signed agreement with the City of Tacoma provides access to points along the road for boaters including the Headworks put-in beyond the City of Tacoma's security gate (conditions apply).
3) Protection of land along the Green River Gorge
Entering the Green River Gorge provides a remarkable opportunity to enjoy a wild river in close proximity to a major urban area. As the population grows in this part of the county though the land that is currently in timber production becomes much more valuable for development. With this development we loose many things including the wild character of the gorge, opportunities for a connected riparian corridor that provides critical habitat for many wildlife, and opportunities for a connected recreation corridor along the river. With development we also risk additional impacts to flows as the cumulative impacts of private wells are felt. Partners in our efforts to protect the character of this special place include American Rivers, Forterra, Friends of the Green, Middle Green River Coalition, and our local affiliate clubs.
- Access Map for Green Headworks
Map illustrating access to the put-in for the Green River Headworks.
- Corps of Engineers, Policy Issue No. 216: Releases for Whitewater Rafting
Policy memo regarding decision on adjustments in project releases to accommodate whitewater rafting and/or canoeing.
- Green River Settlement Agreement
Settlement Agreement between Friends of the Green, City of Tacoma, and King County regarding mitigation measures for construction of Pipeline 5.
- Green River Gorge State Park Area Management Plan
Washington State Parks Management Plan for the Green River Gorge (Draft).
- Green River Recreation Instream Flow Study
- Concept of River Wilderness
Essay by AW founder Wolf Bauer on the importance of conserving wild rivers.
Green River Flow Study (WA)
Flow Survey on Green River, WA