Natural and Human History at Lord Hill Park

PanGeo’s outdoor explorations took us to Lord Hill Regional Park north of Seattle near Monroe. We had never been there, but have always seen that big green chunk on the map. We had to go check it out. It was a huge day hike, about 5.5 miles, with lots of interesting human and natural history!

a great autumn hike

Lord Hill Regional Park is a big piece of land (1,300 acres) along the Snohomish River, in Snohomish County, Washington State. The Snohomish people are the Native Americans that this area used to belong to. In the late 18oos, Mitchell Lord bought a piece of land on the hill that now has his name. He started a dairy farm, and soon other people came to cut down the big trees, start a rock quarry, fish for salmon, and do other things that would change the natural environment. The forests have returned, but there are many clues to show how much they have changed. Mitchell Hill’s house is still here, as are signs of logging and mining.

two springboard notches on the left

One of the first signs of what happened to the original forest here, are the huge old cedar stumps, with notches for springboards. Loggers would put boards in the notches, to cut the tree at a better spot high on the tree. Lower down, the flare of the roots is too dense and wide. On really big trees you can find the springboard notches on opposite sides of the tree for using a two-person saw.

old Speeder Machine Co. digger or steam shovel from the 1920s or 30s

Make sure to explore things like this very carefully!

Soon, we got to another big reminder of this place’s history, an old abandoned quarry. The rocky cliffs along the Snohomish River were an easy place to quarry stone. Several levels of the rock quarry run up the side of the hill. At the bottom is a huge old rusting digger/steam-shovel/excavator that’s almost 100 years old. It makes for some great quick exploration and the controls even still move a bit. There are rusty sharp bits, and old heavy iron things can smash fingers. Also, the quarry has a few steep drop offs so be careful.

After the quarry, the trail headed up and into the forest. We noticed that next to the creek there were more larger trees, covered with more moss and thick ferns, and surrounded by more undergrowth. So, we thought about why it was like that. The kids guessed that it was because the creek gave the plants there more water, so they grew better. The adults guessed it was because loggers intentionally didn’t log next to the creek. What do you think?

High up on the hill in a little valley, we came to a lake surrounded by autumn colors. There are lots of maple trees (big leaf and vine), so there are lots of golden leaves in the forest right now. We played a game to see who could match leaves to seeds. The kids matched catkins to the HUGE big leaf maples, alder cones (which aren’t real cones) to their egg-shaped leaves, small hemlock cones to their short needles, and tiny western red cedar cones to their scaly leaves.

leaves and seeds scavenger hunt

We wanted to get down next to the river. Rivers are always great places to see wildlife. There is usually some critter in, on, above, or next to the water. We could hear bald eagles and seagulls in the distance and knew right now is the season for salmon, especially pink salmon. The trail took us down the hill, past lots of cool mushrooms, some slugs, and a millipede or two, and finally through the blackberry bushes, to the Snohomish River bank. The smell of dead salmon was in the air. Soon, we could see many dead salmon on the shore, and some in the water, swimming out their final days. Remember, after salmon spawn (release their eggs and fertilize them with sperm), they soon die.

dead salmon
a salmon swimming out its last day

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