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Visualizing King County: timber cruise reports from 1907-08


New online! The King County Archives recently completed a project to image and rehouse 45 volumes of Assessor’s timber cruise reports dating from 1907-08. Valued by researchers for their detail and accuracy, the reports are a unique resource for this time period in King County. We are thrilled to make high-quality copies of these records easily accessible through our public search site.

Topography: natural and built

The imaged reports document natural topography like ridges, swamps, and waterways; vegetation and soil types; human impacts such as areas that have been burned or logged; and the built environment, including trails, houses, farms, roads, mines, mills, and railroads.


Map from report for Section 18, Township 20, Range 11E, showing burnt-off areas, mill-worker housing, the Northern Pacific Railroad line and Morgan’s Mill railroad spur, Friday Creek, and the Green River.

What was here?

In identifying structures and landmarks, the reports provide information about land use in early 20th Century King County. When conducting research for our own Bytes and Boxes post about the Lake Wilderness Lodge, we were delighted to find reference to a summer cottage in the vicinity of what was to become Gaffney’s Resort.

Who was here?

Many of the reports note the names of landowners—and even the names of tenants—occupying a plot of land, along with inventories of equipment, livestock, orchards and other property. These lists can tell us about individuals, and they can help us picture day-to-day life in rural King County in the early 20th Century. Some reports provide a record of communities and property of Native Americans and people of color.

Detail from report for Section 7, Township 22, Range 5E, listing property on surveyed section.

What’s a timber cruise?

King County conducted timber cruises from 1907 through 1967 to estimate the taxable value of forested land. In creating the 1907-08 reports, timber cruisers surveyed potential timberlands, mapping and describing natural topography, and they noted human-made features, landmarks, and significant property. The surveys were conducted and documented using the Public Land Survey System, a geographic reference system that is the basis for legal land descriptions still used today. The earliest timber cruise reports are of particular interest not only because of their vintage and content, but also because of their beauty.


Aesthetic quality

The maps are beautiful!

Map from report for Section 2, Township 20, Range 7E.


Imaging for access and preservation

While imaging and indexing projects are labor-intensive, providing high-quality digital copies of records online makes them widely accessible to historians, scientists, students, genealogists, and others interested in the history of our region’s natural environment, infrastructure, communities, and residents. Online access also serves to protect these unique records for posterity by minimizing the need to physically handle the original paper volumes.


Historic preservation

The King County Historic Preservation Program will be combining the timber cruise map data with other GIS data developed as part of a three-phase Cultural Resources Protection Project, which focuses on improving archaeological resource protection in the County.


Zoom in!

The high-resolution scans provide such detail that one archivist claimed to have had an out-of-body experience when zooming in on a map. Our goal is to encourage use of these wonderful records, and the quality of the images will enable reproduction in online and print publications.

Detail from map from report for Section 4, Township 22, Range 5E.


Thanks to…

Scanning was made possible by support from King County’s Archaeological Mitigation Grant Fund.

The Archives would like to thank volunteer Julia Alforde for the many hours she spent reformatting images and completing data entry to enable online access to the scanned records. Thanks also to conservator Lisa Duncan Goedeke and her intern Jenessa Lingard, who carefully rehoused the original timber cruise volumes into custom archival boxes after they were scanned.


Accessing the reports by geographic location

Note: This section has been updated to correct the coverage map found below and in the instructions in PDF format, March 12, 2019.


Following are instructions for retrieving a timber cruise report for a given location. Click on the below images to enlarge, or
download instructions in PDF format


The reports cover most King County townships that were relatively undeveloped at the time of the survey, shown below. Not every section within each given township was surveyed.



Use King County iMap to identify the Section, Township, and Range of the area of interest.



Use the Township and Range information to locate the correct timber cruise volume by searching on the Archives search site.



Navigate within the volume on the Archives search site to locate an individual section map, or download the entire report to view all maps and textual matter for the township.


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