River Seen

Three Points of View

The Duwamish River of Seattle and Tukwila as seen through a camera lens, watercolor paints and a kayaking adventure.

It began as an estuary, miles of fresh and salt water hugged by marshes and mudflats and the winter villages of the Duwamish People. Then a series of events beginning in the early 1900s, both natural as well as man-made, radically transformed the Duwamish River.

The Duwamish River, South Park
Photo by Tom Reese

We often dismiss the river as horribly and highly polluted and just a shred of what it naturally used to be. When we acknowledge it, it’s most often with the moniker: federally recognized Superfund site. But the Duwamish River is also a source of curiosity, inspiration and adventure.

Tom Reese first began photographing the Duwamish about a decade ago, when he was still on staff at The Seattle Times. He discovered that whenever he brought up the Duwamish, when he asked people if they had ever seen it, the answer was often “No.”

The more I look, the more I find, the more I think about.
Tom Reese

His photography is about placing value on the natural world, even on the parts that we don’t always seek out.

Headwaters of the Duwamish River
Photo by Tom Reese

Artist Chandler Woodfin was home in South Park and she needed to stretch her legs—and mind. “I just wanted to be outside and paint,” she says. So she walked up the street, assaulted by the smell of trash and industrial noise, and from a bench on the river’s bank she took in the sights.

And I was inspired by the environment: the ripples on the water; the movement of a crane crushing up a car. That walk was really about questioning why I chose to live in this neighborhood.

Soil, watercolor on paper, 9" x 12" by Chandler Woodfin

She appreciates the underdog quality of the Duwamish and she says there’s beauty to be found in the river. “Or else, why would people be so concerned with saving it?”


Funnel, watercolor on paper, 9" x 12" by Chandler Woodfin

Read a third point of view on the Duwamish through the eyes of a newcomer to Washington state in An Urban Adventure: Kayaking a Superfund Site.

  • Tom Reese

    Tom Reese is a Seattle photographer who has been documenting the Duwamish River for the past decade. His book about the river is scheduled to be published in 2016.

  • Chandler Woodfin

    Chandler Woodfin is a Seattle-based painter and draftsman.