Ahoy! Explore a sunken forest in Lake Sammamish

July 2, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Branches poke from a sunken forest in Lake Sammamish. By Paul Scott

The pillars rise from Lake Sammamish, as large as whalebones and faded to a ghostly gray.

Embedded in the lake near Timberlake Park is a submerged forest heaved into the lake during a long-ago landslide and earthquake.

Kayak Academy and Issaquah Paddle Sports owners Barb and George Gronseth point out the landmark on frequent kayaking expeditions around Lake Sammamish. The primeval stumps poking skyward elicit strange looks from outdoor enthusiasts.

“They never believe me when I tell them there was a landslide,” Barb Gronseth said.

Indeed, the state Department of Natural Resources detailed the ancient earthquake on the nearby Seattle Fault — a shallow seismic zone stretched along the interstate from Puget Sound and east through lakes Washington and Sammamish. Geologists determined a major earthquake about 1,000 years ago dislodged old-growth forest from a hillside. The shifting land collapsed and slid into the lake.

The immense trees decayed into gnarled stumps as the centuries passed. Nowadays, only a handful remain.

“The forest doesn’t seem like much at first, just a few logs sticking out of the ground, but when you take a closer look you can really appreciate the beauty,” Everyone’s Travel Club blogger and kayaker Paul Scott said.

Underwater, aquatic plants cling to the trunks like a verdant carpet. The site in Lake Sammamish is popular among anglers because fish teem amidst the sunken stumps.

“Basically, what’s above lake level for the most part rotted away and broke off a long time ago, other than a just little bit of stump sticking up, but what’s underwater is preserved better than what’s in the air,” George Gronseth said.

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