I have this love affair with Ebey Slough, and today I was finally able to explore a section of it I had yet to see at Harborview Park in Marysville, Wa. This expansive estuary of the Snohomish River not only exudes beauty at the center of urban sprawl, it also beholds controversial and somewhat painful history through its namesake.
I want to begin with the subject of its beauty before embarking on the dark shadow of Ebey’s history. My expedition began on a cloudy, somewhat rainy morning. There has been a surplus of rain lately which makes for lots and lots of glorious flooding in the Slough (my favorite time to go). Here’s a panorama I captured while making my way left on the trail toward East Levee Breach Overlook. What a perfect Washington day it was!
There were so many birds out today and nobody on the trail to turn to while pointing emphatically to say “hey, did you see that!” Like when I saw this incredible blue heron standing straight out in front of me and my heart skipped a handful of beats. There are a few things out in nature that affect me in this way, and one is the majestic blue heron- or “Shikepoke” as my German grandfather would say.
(Turn up your volume on the video above!)
I continued on the trail all the way to its end for a spectacular view and returned back to the park entrance. There I veered right on the trail that hadn’t been my first choice and found more beautiful scenery. However, if you were short on time, I highly recommend the first route. I’m so glad I took the time to visit the Slough today and I’m sure to be back again soon.
Now for some history, let’s begin the year 1855 when the first steam powered boat trip through the Slough was led by Colonel Issac Ebey. He was born in Ohio in January of 1818, but his lust for adventure sent him out West. Eventually he staked out 640 acres on Whidbey Island and became its first settler along with his wife and children.
United States Army Colonel Issac Ebey 1818-1857
Tragedy struck when a native tribe from the North (possibly Tlingit) sought revenge when the USS Massachusetts was responsible for killing 27 of their tribal members along with a beloved chief. The tribal warriors were in search of Dr. John Kellogg, who was actually involved in the slaughtering, but with no luck they found the homestead of Issac Ebey and beheaded him at his own doorstep.
After this seemingly senseless act, Captain Charles Dodd attempted to purchase his friend’s scalp back from the tribe. They refused due to the annual ceremonies they held where they danced with the scalps of their slain enemies. Such a trophy was to be passed through the generations to tell their triumphant stories. However, after 3 years, Captain Dodd returned with an offer they couldn’t refuse. Colonel Ebey’s scalp sold for 6 blankets, 3 pipes, a cotton handerchief, 6 heads of tobacco and some cotton. In 1860 Issac Ebey’s scalp was delivered home to his brother for an eerie closure, as his ears and hair were impeccably preserved.
In recent years there has been speculation from the tribes that Col. Issac Ebey might not have been a friend to the Native American tribes and possibly had native blood on his own hands. Therefore, there has been discussions of changing the name of the Slough altogether as to not glorify Mr. Ebey’s alleged actions. As far as I know there has been no proof of this and the name will stay. Either way, I hope the next time you pass over the Slough or by it on your freeway travels that you’ll appreciate its beauty and richness in local history. Try out the many trails as well!
Harborview Park address:
4900 60th Ave NE, Marysville, WA 98270