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Originally published Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 7:05 PM

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Follow route of history on Sammamish River Trail

Cathy McDonald visits the Sammamish River Trail, following a rail line that replaced steamers that plied the once-meandering river.

Special to The Seattle Times

Trail: Sammamish River Trail

Location: Bothell, Woodinville and Redmond

Length: About 11 miles

Level of difficulty: Gently sloping paved path has an adjacent dirt/grass path for equestrians between Northeast 175th Street in Woodinville and Marymoor Park.

Setting: When the Burke-Gilman Trail reaches Bothell, it continues as the Sammamish River Trail east and south through Woodinville and Redmond to Marymoor Park (where it connects to the East Lake Sammamish Trail). As you walk along the canal-like Sammamish River (dredged and straightened in the 20th century), imagine it as it was less than 100 years ago. Once 30 miles long (now 10 miles), the tightly meandering river was flanked by broad marshes; the Native Americans who lived along the river called themselves the "Willow People." The river regularly flooded its banks, literally laying the groundwork for the area's rich soil, and it was so full of fish that Redmond was once known as Salmonburg.

Highlights: White settlers used the river as a highway, relying on small, shallow steamers and barges for transport. Near present-day downtown Bothell, early settler Mary Anne Bothell ran a boardinghouse where steamer passengers disembarked for a meal. After tracks for the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway reached the area in 1887-1888 (the trail is the converted railbed), river traffic soon declined. When Lake Washington was lowered almost 9 feet in 1916-17 (with the construction of the ship canal) the water level of the shallow river fell until it was no longer navigable.

Facilities: Restrooms at parks along the trail (see below).

Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect.

Directions: The trail has several access points from Interstate 405. To reach the Park at Bothell Landing, take Highway 522 west (Exit 23) to downtown Bothell and turn left on Northeast 180th Street; to reach Wilmot Gateway Park in Woodinville, take Highway 522 east, take the first exit, turn right, head south on 131st Avenue Northeast, and the park is clearly marked on the right in several blocks; and to reach Marymoor Park in Redmond, take Highway 520 east to the West Lake Sammamish Parkway exit, turn right off the exit ramp, and then turn left in one block into the park.

Bus: Metro Transit operates several routes that run near the trail: 206-553-3000 or

For more information: 206-296-8687 or 425-486-7430 or see (see the printable Sammamish Valley Map)

Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a geologist by training, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She's currently a travel guidebook editor at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her:

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