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A trail into local history

Wonder, fun and a pleasant workout wait

The end of the old track leading to the former DuPont Wharf provides a nice place for children to rest. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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The Sequalitchew Creek Trail is nearby and a day's travel into a chapter of the city of DuPont's history.

While the area was home to Native Americans more than 5,000 years ago, and in more recent times specifically to the Nisqually and Sequalitchew Indians, it entered American history when the United States purchased Fort Nisqually from the British in 1869.

A well-maintained and marked trail leaves the plateau where Fort Nisqually once stood and today's DuPont City Hall now stands, and soon begins a slow but sure 210-foot descent and mile-and-a-half hike to the Puget Sound.

Paralleling the trail on its north side is a canyon through which Sequalitchew Creek - and some more history - runs.

Along the trail, big leaf maples, red alders, vine maples and sword ferns create a cathedral of shade; the upper reaches of the canyon are covered with Douglas firs, western hemlocks and western red cedars.

As hikers approach the bottom of the trail, they will notice old power poles on the side of the trail and two tunnels up ahead.

This is a connection between the past and the present.

In 1906, the DuPont Company, an explosives manufacturing firm, purchased 3,192 acres of land and 1,485 feet of waterfront property in order to build a power plant at the top of the plateau.

Sequalitchew (the word means "place of long run out tide") Creek provided the hydroelectric power needed for the plant's operations. The power poles once supported the wires that carried electricity up to the plant.

Down along the shore, the DuPont Wharf was constructed, and it measured 36 feet wide and 300 feet long.

Connecting the pier to the plant were two 36-inch wide, narrow-gauge train tracks to transport products up and down the 2.9-percent grade between the plant and the wharf.

At the same time, the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific Railroad laid track along Puget Sound. In order to accommodate DuPont's operations, a trestle was built to cross over DuPont's tracks, creating the tunnels.

Operational by September 1909, the rail line was initially powered by horsepower.  After a fatal accident, the DuPont Company purchased the first locomotive equipped with an air brake system.

As hikers pass through the tunnels and under the trestle, they will notice that the tracks laid in the early 20th century make a hard right turn. This bend in the tracks was a safety precaution; should there be a runaway train, it would derail on the sharp turns.

Upon exiting the short tunnel, visitors can continue to walk the tracks for about 100 yards, or they can walk down to the stony beach. At low tide, remnants of the wharf's pilings are still visible; to the north and about 200 yards or so off shore to the south is the wreckage of a cement boat.

"This is just a nice place to come and spend a pleasant afternoon," one walker recently said.  "Your kids will love this place.

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