Miles Lost Miles Gained

Art and science combine to virtually restore lost rivers through digital maps, sculpture and intersecting tales of ecosystem destruction and restoration.

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Rendering of proposed historic mile marker 1 for the west distributary channel of the Duwamish, looking at “virtually restored” Kellogg Island.
Rendering of proposed historic mile marker 1 for the west distributary channel of the Duwamish, looking at “virtually restored” Kellogg Island.

Source: ML/MG

Removing oxbows and creating an “improved” waterway on the Puyallup River, 1916.
Removing oxbows and creating an “improved” waterway on the Puyallup River, 1916.

Photo: University of Washington

Elwha River watershed, before 2012. The Elwha dam blocked access to more than 90% of the watershed, 70 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat, & more than 30 miles of side channel habitat. More than 80% of the watershed is in Olympic National Park.
Elwha River watershed, before 2012. The Elwha dam blocked access to more than 90% of the watershed, 70 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat, & more than 30 miles of side channel habitat. More than 80% of the watershed is in Olympic National Park.

Source: National Parks Service

Slow and steady progress at Glines Canyon Dam, 14 April, 2012. The contractor is removing the dams in stages to manage the release of sediment from the reservoirs.
Slow and steady progress at Glines Canyon Dam, 14 April, 2012. The contractor is removing the dams in stages to manage the release of sediment from the reservoirs.

Photo: National Parks Service

The Project

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The MLMG web based maps and historic mile marker monuments are designed to communicate the complex, fascinating, and interconnected histories that have created the modern landscape of the Puget Sound. The MLMG project focuses on entire corridors, established by a series of mile markers, rather than individual locations. Each marker along the corridor is as valuable to the project as the next. In depth historic research at each of the marker sites will be incorporated into each monument. Viewers that travel the path of the historic river and interact with the monuments will gain incremental insights though subsequent encounters with other monuments in the corridor.  A semblance of holistic knowledge of the true extent and pace of transformation can only be gained by traversing the entire corridor, and watching it change with time.

As many of the most heavily altered river segments are co-located within industrial areas, they are chronically under-served by the arts. This project seeks to bring art and history to the workers, residents, and explorers of these often forgotten, historic river corridors.

Background

In the last several decades, concerted efforts have been made to clean up the pollution to our air, land, and waters. While significant progress has been made, the legacy of the physical alteration of the landscape that preceded these cleanup efforts remains. The former tideflats, wetlands, sloughs, and meanders plied by the Coast Salish tribes teamed with waterfowl and fish have been filled and forgotten. In their place settlers and their descendants constructed canneries, shipyards, lumber mills, granaries, airplane factories, rail yards, warehouses, breweries, coffee roasters, and software empires. Declines in once abundant salmon, whales, and other species have occurred as the habitats used by theses species were degraded or permanently lost. Efforts are underway to improve the quality of the waters that support these declining species, however, for the foreseeable future, the people and economy of the Puget Sound region will continue to depend on the physical transformation or our river valleys and tidelands remaining permanent.

MLMG recognizes the importance in investing in protection, cleanup, and restoration of Puget Sound and lands and waters everywhere. While daylighting of the former meanders of the Duwamish through Boeing Field appears as unlikely as Elvis going on a comeback tour, MLMG believes that documenting the losses in the minds eye of the pubic can create and sustain motivation for large scale restoration efforts elsewhere that can help offset losses in more heavily developed areas.

The most significant restoration effort to date in Puget Sound is the removal of two outdated dams on the Elwha River, draining the virgin forests along the northern slopes of Olympic National Park. Removal of the two dams will reverse nearly a century of damage to a largely pristine river valley, that was once the spawning grounds of one of the largest salmon species ever encountered by settlers. The deconstruction of the two dams began in September 2011, and will continue to 2013. Removal of the dams will open up more than 100 miles of mainstem, tributary, and side channel habitat for spawning and rearing of salmonids and resident fish species. Perhaps as significantly, the free flow of water, sediment, wood, fish, and wildlife from the glacier fed headwaters to saltwater is poised to completely transform the river valley.  People will certainly draw inspiration from watching recovery play out in real time. Those lucky enough to watch this river transform slowly over time will be rewarded greatly.

Inspiration for the MLMG Project

Mr. Corum considers himself fortunate to have worked on several important aspects related to the preparation for removal of the dams on the Elwha. During site visits to his projects, he imagined how the scientists studying the river after the dams are removed might make use of large pieces of the dam to act as permanent reference points to study change. Recognizing the impracticality (and absurdity) of placing concrete monoliths within the river to be restored, Mr. Corum realized that there are several lost rivers in the Puget Sound area that don’t pose this problem. These rivers were straightened and paved over decades ago, and in many respects forgotten. Mr. Corum realized that there was strong potential for using art to tell both of these stories. Placing sculptures composed of the dam rubble along the locations of where rivers used to be creates an opportunity to weave two very rich and intertwined histories together, at locations where people live, work, drive, and play.

Ultimately the MLMG project seeks to highlight and celebrate the Elwha as it represents a uniquely positive contrast with the permanent losses suffered by the rivers, tidelands, and wetlands of Puget Sound. The Elwha also represents an inspiring success story of perseverance, creativity, ingenuity, and courage of the original proponents and those that followed, tasked with carrying out the ambitious work. Future ecosystem restoration success stories will undoubtedly draw inspiration from this historic undertaking.

Get Connected

MLMG is an artist-initiated project that cannot be realized without public and private support. This website is provided as a means to generate local and regional interest in the project, to facilitate partnerships with landowners along the corridors, who’s participation is essential to virtually restoring the lost rivers of Puget Sound.

A detailed proposal for virtual restoration of the Duwamish and Black Rivers is coming soon. Similar proposals for the Puyallup, White, and Sammamish Rivers will follow.

To learn more about partnership opportunities, including hosting a mile marker, and volunteering, contact partner@mileslostmilesgained.org.

Rendering of proposed historic mile marker 1 for the west distributary channel of the Duwamish, looking at “virtually restored” Kellogg Island.
Rendering of proposed historic mile marker 1 for the west distributary channel of the Duwamish, looking at “virtually restored” Kellogg Island.

Source: ML/MG

Removing oxbows and creating an “improved” waterway on the Puyallup River, 1916.
Removing oxbows and creating an “improved” waterway on the Puyallup River, 1916.

Photo: University of Washington

Elwha River watershed, before 2012. The Elwha dam blocked access to more than 90% of the watershed, 70 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat, & more than 30 miles of side channel habitat. More than 80% of the watershed is in Olympic National Park.
Elwha River watershed, before 2012. The Elwha dam blocked access to more than 90% of the watershed, 70 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat, & more than 30 miles of side channel habitat. More than 80% of the watershed is in Olympic National Park.

Source: National Parks Service

Slow and steady progress at Glines Canyon Dam, 14 April, 2012. The contractor is removing the dams in stages to manage the release of sediment from the reservoirs.
Slow and steady progress at Glines Canyon Dam, 14 April, 2012. The contractor is removing the dams in stages to manage the release of sediment from the reservoirs.

Photo: National Parks Service