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Snoqualmie Falls Upper Park

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Designed to capture all of stormwater runoff generated on the site and will save nearly $28,000 over the next decade on stormwater management fees assessed by the County.
  • Sequesters approximately 36 metric tons of CO2 in the soil by restoring and enhancing nearly 1 acre of native upland habitat. Additional carbon is stored in the 111 canopy trees (91% of existing) that were preserved on the site.
  • Reduces potential annual landscape water use by about 950,000 gallons (enough to supply 21 single-family households) through the use of a water-efficient, low-flow irrigation system. This saves about $3,000/year in water costs as compared to a standard, code-compliant system.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    AECOM Design + Planning

  • Project Type

    Nature preserve
    Park/Open space

  • Former Land Use

    Park/Open Space

  • Location

    6501 Railroad Ave Southeast
    Snoqualmie, Washington

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  • Climate Zone

    Warm-summer Mediterranean

  • Size

    4 acres

  • Completion Date

    2010 - Upper Park (Phase 1)

Located 30 miles east of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range, Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most popular regional recreation destinations in western Washington, hosting up to 2 million visitors a year. The falls, which plunge more that 270 ft, have long been a site of deep spiritual significance for the area’s Snoqualmie People. For more than a century, the site has been owned and operated by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and is one of the oldest hydropower facilities in the Pacific Northwest. Beginning in 2009, PSE began a major renovation of the facility’s aging pump houses and initiated an enhancement effort to improve the park and its surrounding trails and wildlife habitat. The park design celebrates the site as a regional treasure of natural, recreational, cultural and historic importance and improves the visitor experience by enabling access for all physical abilities and providing educational signage and features. The first phase of improvements – the new Upper Park educational features and facilities, native habitat rehabilitation, and improved public access – is now complete. The second phase, known as the Lower Park, will open in 2013.

  • Pedestrian pathways and gathering spaces guide visitors of all physical abilities from the parking lot to the three viewpoints along the canyon edge.
  • A 160-sf extensive green roof covers the interpretive kiosk and includes a repurposed industrial “rain chain”, which directs any runoff from the green roof to a mini-rain garden.
  • Stormwater runoff from the site is directed into an exposed infiltration bed and an enhanced wetland (to be constructed in Phase 2).
  • 111 of the 122 canopy trees on the site (91%) were preserved. Only trees determined by an arborist to be ‘at risk’ for safety or health concerns were removed.
  • Plant communities were enhanced or restored with native plant species to provide better connectivity of the forest canopy.
  • Educational placards identify native plants in English as well as the language of the local Snoqualmie tribe and provide information on traditional uses of the plants.
  • Hydropower equipment found on the site, including an industrial chain, gears, pipe and a 5,000-lb brass turbine, are reused throughout the site as interpretive elements to help visitors understand the rich history of this operating hydropower plant.


A primary goal for the design of the Snoqualmie Falls Upper Park was to embrace and highlight the multiple layers of meaning and use at this historic and culturally significant site. The Falls are a location of spiritual importance for local Native American tribes and have had a relatively unknown history of hydroelectric power generation throughout much of the 20th century. The redesign also needed to make the site ADA accessible and improve pedestrian circulation to more effectively accommodate the 2 million annual visitors while being sensitive to native habitat and cultural heritage.


Elements integrated into the new park design reveal the layers of natural, cultural, historical, and operational complexity associated with the site. The experiential emphasis for the visitor is on developing a personal connection with the falls and connecting to site’s cultural and industrial history through interpretive elements. To do this, plant identification plaques highlight the traditional use of each plant and are written in English as well as the language of the local Snoqualmie tribe. Industrial materials, including a chain, gears, pipe, and a 5,000-lb brass turbine are reused throughout the site as stormwater features and interpretive elements. To improve circulation, underutilized areas were removed and replaced with an open air interpretive plaza. A series of wide cascading stairs and viewpoints provide different vantage points and interpretive experiences from the top of the canyon. Circulation across the entire site was upgraded for ADA accessibility.

Use of water-efficient, low-flow irrigation system saves approximately $3,000/year in water costs as compared to a standard code compliant system.

  • When working with a diverse and culturally significant site, designers must work closely with people and available resources early in the design process to establish a cogent storyline that is reflective of the historical site conditions.
  • The use of metaphor to describe design intentions is key to getting the client and technical team on board with design ideas. For example, the design team used the metaphor of a river and the characteristics of flow, pooling, and critical areas to explain the circulation, gathering spaces, and location of vantage points. This metaphor enabled the technical team to develop strategies and design details that were appropriate to this perspective.

Project Team

AECOM Design + Planning
Lehrman Cameron Studio
Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Seattle Structural
WSP Flack + Klurtz
Brinkerhoff & Associates

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect provided planning and design services across all phases of the process from planning through construction and maintenance oversight. As part of this process, the landscape architect developed a master plan for the site, as well as design and construction documents.

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: Ken Yocom, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Washington
Research Assistant: Delia Lacson, MLA Candidate, University of Washington
August 2011

To cite:

Yocom, Ken and Delia Lacson. “Snoqualmie Falls Upper Park.” Landscape Performance Series. Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2011.


Stormwater management, Water conservation, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Operations & maintenance savings, Other economic, Bioretention, Educational signage, Efficient irrigation, Green roof, Native Plants, Onsite energy generation, Trail, Trees

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