On what turns out to be a surprisingly beautiful late November afternoon after a stormy night, some friends and I opt for a mellow lake to lake (Union to Washington) "tour de bridges." It's close, easy, and good to be out on the water with friends.
Our goal, besides exercise and the sheer pleasure of paddling, is to check out construction on the new SR 520 Floating Bridge in Lake Washington. A couple of us worked on the bridge replacement project environmental analysis and design, so it's fun to see the fruits of our and many others' labor.
Since Seattle is surrounded and constricted by water, of course we have lots of bridges. First up as we head from Lake Union to Portage Bay is University Bridge, a bascule draw bridge. This bridge was originally built in 1919, just a couple years after the major project to create the Ship Canal connecting Lake Washington to Puget Sound.
|University Bridge crossing the Lake Washington Ship Canal|
Enroute to Lake Washington, we skirt the southern edge of my alma mater University of Washington (Go Dawgs!) through Portage Bay. Choppy, bouncy water is usually the norm for narrow, manmade Montlake Cut, where hundreds of rowers have raced over the last century. Every year different Husky crews leave their mark on the sloped concrete walls lining the Cut beneath the beloved Gothic-style Montlake Bridge, another drawbridge/traffic bottleneck dating to 1925.
As we paddle through the Cut eastward into Lake Washington, it's fun to read all the spray-painted messages. Leaving the Cut, we enter the Arboretum to the right for a short detour. State Route 520 crosses through this wetland area, which today would be protected from a new highway construction under current environmental regulations.
Since we're blocked in by 520 construction staging, it's time to cut back out into Union Bay and around past Foster Island, a former native burial ground and now wildlife viewing trail. This part of the present-day Arboretum is rich in native history and use and a great wildlife watching area. As we approach the island, a flock of distinctive wild buffleheads hustle away in a splash of wings and webbed feet.
|SR 520 western highrise ahead, Eastside and Bellevue beyond.|
|Aurora Borealis Sculpture|
After a short detour to check out the floating pontoons, we scoot over to and under the new 520 highrise being built. When it's finished, there will be a bicycle and pedestrian path on the north side.
|Old bridge left, new bridge right|
|Husky Stadium, where many arrive by boat.|
|Entering the Montlake Cut heading west.|
|UW research vessel, Lake Washington Ship Canal bridge above.|
Have you paddled this area? Would love to hear your comments below.
Happy water trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!
When You Go
There are many launch sites, but we put in just east of Gasworks Park near Dunato's Boat Yard, where we parked on the street and walk across to a perfect little beach to launch. (Thanks to John for the tip.) Northwest Outdoor Center (NWOC) on Lake Union rents kayaks and paddleboards year-round. Other options to check out are Aqua Verde Paddle Club on Portage Bay and the University of Washington Canoe Center below Husky Stadium.