• Man hopes to be the first to swim the full stretch of Duwamish River

    By: David Ham


    57-year-old Mark Powell says he's hoping to be the first to swim the full stretch of the Green and Duwamish Rivers to raise awareness on the importance of preserving it.

     "From the cascades all the way to Puget Sound, trying to help raise consciousness about the work that's being done and the conditions of the river, and the things that need to be done in the future with public support," said Powell, who is also Director at Washington Environmental Council.

     He started his swim back in June in Lester, Washington by the Snoqualmie Pass and plans to finish his journey at Seacrest Park in West Seattle on September 30th.

     "I'm swimming anywhere from two to seven miles per day going about once per week," said Powell.

     We caught up with Powell when he stopped this morning in Kent to talk about why he's swimming this 85-mile stretch.

     "Great news - there's thousands of pink salmon in the river today. They're swimming up and down; there are schools of salmon all around," said Powell.

     Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke agrees with Powell and says this swim is also helping raise awareness to expand the levees here along the Green River that turns into the Duwamish.

    "It is key for us to us not only protect the residents business the properties from floods while we're doing that how can we improve the habitat from the fisheries," said Cooke.

     Powell will also swim through parts of the Duwamish which is an active superfund site.

     "Most of the pollution is in the sediment, and I’ve talked with the King County Department of Health and they assure me it's safe for water contact, so I'm not worried," said Powell.

     He's hoping to turn the attention back to what matters most on this journey -- the health of the this waterway.

     "Improving habitat quality, improving fish runs, hopefully we'll see more Steelhead and Chinook salmon in the future to go with these pink salmon," said Powell.

     REI is sponsoring Powell’s trek called “Swim Duwamish”.

    “Mark is helping people understand how important rivers and waterways are to our community. Swimming the entire 85 miles of the Duwamish River is a remarkable effort and he’s bringing awareness to the hard work being done to restore this important waterway,” said Alex Thompson, REI vice president of Public Affairs and Communications.

     Powell still has about 18 miles to swim.

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