Along the way he swam through schools of pink salmon. Saw a bobcat, three mink, three otters and an eagle. A shopping cart, a desk, a soccer ball, a bicycle, a washing machine and lots and lots of soda and beer cans. Yet, Powell said, dripping in his wet suit and just out of the water, “A lot of people think the Duwamish River is just a sacrifice zone. But the river is still alive.”
Powell, director of Puget Sound programs for the Washington Environmental Council, a nonprofit environmental group, said he got the idea to swim the river in part because he didn’t know that much about it, even where the river begins. He decided to swim it top to bottom, “to find the river’s heart.” In the end Powell, 57, swam 55 miles of the river’s length in a series of 18 swims. He skipped the river’s whitewater stretches and where it is off-limits to protect the city of Tacoma’s water supply.