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FiresideChats
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PostThu Aug 16, 2018 8:55 am 
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I've been looking at my maps and thinking about why "this ridge" is old growth forest and "that ridge" 3 miles away is DNR land that has been logged three times since 1900. Thinking more broadly, what are the geographic constraints to human development in the NW? Meaning, what roads and infrastructure is virtually hard-wired because of geography? I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass comes to mind. What development was more contingent between factors with other possible outcomes?
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PostThu Aug 16, 2018 9:12 am 
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Actually, it is questionable as to whether Snoqualmie Pass was the best location for an east-west pass for the Railroad. As I recall, it was Isaac Stevens who insisted the pass be constructed over Snoqualmie, in spite of many voicing the opinion that there were better options.

Roads are located where the topography allows; virtually all major highway corridors in the western US follow river corridors (I-5 through Washington being an exception.)

"Infrastructure" will continue to be built as far up into the mountains as needed to accommodate a growing population. Bonney Lake was just a wide spot in the road 30 years ago.
People will build as far up as they feel they need to (or money demands). Victor, Colorado is located 9708 feet above sea level.

Why one ridge gets cut and the next one left alone could be due to any number of factors; Western Washington has been a patchwork quilt of clearcuts and forested ridges for a long time.

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FiresideChats
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PostThu Aug 16, 2018 4:31 pm 
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Ski wrote:
"Infrastructure" will continue to be built as far up into the mountains as needed to accommodate a growing population.

True, but with lots of back and forth, as with abandoned logging roads reclaimed by the local jungle, many of which will probably be punched back in in 30-40 years.

Ski wrote:
Roads are located where the topography allows; virtually all major highway corridors in the western US follow river corridors

That seems reasonable and determined by the E-W flow of overs from a N-S mountain chain.

One thing I point out to my students about WA Geography is the spacing of the local rivers: Nooksack, Skagit, Stilliguamish, Snohomish, all crossed by I-5 and draining the mountains to the east.
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PostThu Aug 16, 2018 5:43 pm 
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The southern half of I-5 in Washington follows what was originally a wagon road, and then later a rail line.
The reason there is a Napavine, Washington is because that is the high spot, and the steam-powered trains had to stop there and fill up on water.
The area between what is present-day Vancouver, Washington and Olympia was pretty much an impassible barrier early on; the first settlement on Puget Sound (Steilacoom) was established via Puget Sound.
Present-day Adna, Washington was one of the earliest settlements between what is now Olympia and Vancouver because there was a ferry there across the Chehalis River.
Curious when you think about it - driving that stretch of I-5 one would not realize that such flat topography kept people from migrating north out of what is present-day Portland until fairly late in the game.

There was no "infrastructure" along the lower Columbia; the cannery operations in the little villages of Skamokawa, Cathlamet, Altoona, Frankfort, Knappton, and Megler were accessible only via the river. It was the same case all up and down the Long Beach peninsula, although they had a rail line that serviced the length of the peninsula early on that moved goods up and down to support the cannery operations. Roads came much later.

North of Grays Harbor, travel was via the beach between present-day Ocean Shores and the mouth of the Queets; they drove wagons (and herds of cattle) right down on the beach. The cattle had to swim across the mouth of the Quinault. As was the case along the lower Columbia and the Long Beach peninsula, roads came much later. Franklin Roosevelt was relatively new in the office of the presidency when he and Eleanor drove around the newly-completed Olympic Loop Highway (101) in an open touring car. (photos and details in Jacilee Wray's book, "River near the Sea: An Ethnohistory of the Queets River Valley" (NPS, 2014)(624 pages, 92 MB PDF file) I cannot find a good link to it. I can email you a copy if your email server will handle the 92MB file.)

==

My comment above about "highways following river corridors" is from my observations covering WA, ID, OR, CA, UT, WY, CO when I was in sales: the Clark Fork, the Klamath, the lower Columbia, and others - all located in what present-day fisheries biologists would consider the worst possible choices for locations.

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PostSat Aug 18, 2018 3:36 pm 
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Wray, Jacilee 2014. River near the Sea: An Ethnohistory of the Queets River Valley. Olympic National Park. Port Angeles, WA.  Two links:
https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/Reference/Profile/2237132
https://www.nps.gov/olym/learn/historyculture/upload/resized_Wray_2014_Queets-Ethnohistory_Redacted.pdf

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"of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt" - John Muir
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PostSat Aug 18, 2018 4:33 pm 
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Thanks Rod!

I have the UNredacted copy here.

(* as an aside: a hard copy of that document sold a few months ago on Ebay for $100.00 * )  eek.gif

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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PostSun Aug 19, 2018 4:30 pm 
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Great stuff!
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PostTue Sep 18, 2018 7:26 pm 
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Ski wrote:
Actually, it is questionable as to whether Snoqualmie Pass was the best location for an east-west pass for the Railroad. As I recall, it was Isaac Stevens who insisted the pass be constructed over Snoqualmie, in spite of many voicing the opinion that there were better options.

The Northern Pacific and Great Northern DID believe there were better options and built those out first.  The NP switchback route over Stampede Pass was completed in 1886, the first Great Northern line over Stevens opened in 1893, and the Milwaukee Road first crossed Snoqualmie in 1909.  The tunnels (or, in the case of Stevens, the first tunnel) weren't completed for a couple more years.

My dim memory of books read long ago is that the NP chose Stampede instead of Snoqualmie in large part because of concerns over snowfall in the latter even though the route the Milwaukee eventually used was in many ways a better-engineered line.
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PostWed Sep 19, 2018 3:32 pm 
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You've got to start with the land grants given the railroads and look at the evolution of the timber companies that followed.  Northern Pacific was given 40 million acres along its route but it had no use for the timber so they in turn sold a lot of it to Weyerhaeuser.  The Weyerhauser tree farms covered most of the west side cascade foothills from the Columbia River to the Stilliguamish.  The section from S Fork Stilliguamish to the Skagit was Puget Timber, later Scott Paper.  From there north was Georgia Pacific but I can't remember who they were preceded by.  Pope & Talbot and ITT Rayonier shared the Olympic Peninsula.  The ownership and divisions were pretty stable throughout most of the 20th century.  The land left with the railroads was spun off by Burlington Northern into Plum Creek Timber, which recently bought what was left of Weyerhaeuser.  All of these companies spun off their own real estate companies which sold off some of their holdings for development.

I guess my point is that geography dictated the routes of the rails but after that it was the timber companies that determined the rest, along with the natural sprawl of the port cities.
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Forum Index > Pacific NW History > Geographic Determinism and Northwest wilderness
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