- Earthworks Tour by Bicycle
- Earthworks Tour by Automobile
- General Information
- The Herbert Bayer Earthwork
- Art at the Earthworks
Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Inaugural Ride!
Self-Guided Bicycle Tours Open Year Round
The Herbert Bayer Earthwork, the Robert Morris Earthwork, the Green River Natural Resources Area, and Lorna Jordan's Waterworks Garden are the destinations you’ll visit on the Earthworks Tour. These four iconic landscapes in the Green River Valley are internationally recognized, but not widely known locally. To encourage more people to experience these extraordinary land art and reclamation projects in their own backyard, the Kent Arts Commission has developed this permanent, signed bike route that is open for self-guided tours year round.
Here is a detailed map and cue sheet that you can PRINT and take with you. Please note our disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
Getting to the Start Line
The start line is the Herbert Bayer Earthwork, Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park, located at 742 East Titus Street (enter via Reiten Road). Free parking is also available in the neighboring Senior Activity Center at 600 East Smith Street (enter via Kennebeck Avenue). Bicyclists can connect to the start line via the nearby Interurban Trail -or- connect via transit at nearby Kent Station.
Easy, Intermediate and Advanced Ride Options
The ride offers three routes for different riding abilities. The Easy Ride, recommended for families, is a 12-mile, flat ride to the Green River Natural Resources Area and back. The Intermediate Loop is a 20-mile ride that takes riders through the Green River Natural Resources Area and out to Lorna Jordan’s Waterworks Gardens. It is also mostly flat with a single, long incline approaching Waterworks Gardens. The Advanced Ride follows the 20-mile route but includes a steep hill climb up to the Robert Morris Earthwork that adds 3 miles.
All of the roadways and trails along the tour are paved. Visitors can bike to each location but should plan to walk through the earthworks, so if you're wearing bicycle shoes, you might want to toss a pair of sneakers in your bag. Bicycle racks are located at all 4 locations.
About the Sponsors
The Earthworks Tour is sponsored by the Kent Arts Commission and supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Art’s Mayors Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative. Over 600 cities were eligible to apply for this grant program, with only 21 cities awarded funding. Nationally, the arts sector generates over $166 billion annually in economic activity. Art is a key element to making cities attractive to grow businesses, tourism, and jobs. The Kent Arts Commission thanks their local agency partners for making this program possible.
Cascade Bicycle Club, 4Culture and the City of Renton co-produced the Earthworks Tour. The Herbert Bayer Earthwork is part of the Kent Arts Commission Collection, and the Green River Natural Resources Area is managed by the City of Kent Public Works Department. The Robert Morris Earthwork (located in Sea-Tac) and Lorna Jordan's Waterworks Gardens (located in Renton) are part of the King County Public Art Collection and managed by 4Culture. 4Culture Site Specific co-sponsored the temporary art projects during the Inaugural Ride. Recent restoration of the Herbert Bayer Earthwork was supported by 4Culture Historic Preservation, along with a generous grant from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Partners in Preservation" program.
DISCLAIMER: This map is intended to aid bicyclists in choosing routes between locations. This map is not in any way a warranty or guarantee as to the stability of roadway conditions or the fitness of listed routes for bicycling. Many of the routes identified on this map cross or run along public roads which are exposed to wear and tear and degradation due to weather, traffic, and other environmental concerns. Riders should remain alert as routes may contain pavement rutting, cracks, bumps, expansion joints, natural or other debris on pavement surfaces, and vegetation which may encroach on routes or portions thereof. Riders should also remain alert for areas of visual impairment and other irregularities that may impact rider and motorist ability to see each other or potential road hazards. The chance that one may come into an area of visual impairment or a route irregularity warrants special care on the part of route users.
Government resources limit the capacity to address conditions and irregularities like those described above. Accordingly, route users should maintain a vigilant lookout for these conditions and irregularities. Route users should always ride with care for their own safety and that of other users. The City of Kent does not assume liability for bicyclists traveling upon routes shown in this map. Safe route selection includes consideration of motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic and roadway or route conditions.
PHOTO CREDITS: Earthworks Tour Inaugural Ride, June 2, 2012. All photography on this page © Michelle Bates. First set of photos: Tour participants with Cascade Bicycle Ride leaders; "Family Bike Bus" © Johnnie Olivan, courtesy 4Culture Public Art; Low-impact vehicle © Clair Colquitt. Middle row: Bicyclists in historic, downtown Kent; "Filaments" © Inkwell Collective; Pony Boy All-Star Big Band musicians on Riverbend Golf Complex pedestrian bridge; "Flora & Fauna" © Theater Simple at Green River Natural Resources Area; "Flora & Fauna" as viewed from Observation Tower; "Levitating Tents" © Andrew Peterson at Anderson Park next to KOA Campground. 2nd set of photos: Pony Boy All-Star Big Band playing the Puget Sound Trail Bridge; Mural Machine by Robert Needham and Ray Bradley © Rejuiced Bikes; Pony Boy All-Star Big Band playing the main stage, with Anais Lin © Julie Lindell; Mural Machine by Robert Needham and Ray Bradley © Rejuiced Bikes with bicyclists; Long Odds © Scott McGee at the Kent Farmers Market; Filaments © The Inkwell Collective, shown with the artists Selina Hunstiger, Heide Martin and Michael Lewis.
- Herbert Bayer Earthworks
742 East Titus Street, Kent, WA
- Green River Natural Resources Area
West of 64th Ave S between S 228th and S 212th
- Robert Morris Earthwork
21610 - 37th Place South, SeaTac, WA
- Lorna Jordan Waterworks Gardens
1200 Monster Road SW, Renton, WA
- The tour can be completed in 3 hours if you sprint (and traffic is good). Allowing a half-day is more enjoyable.
- Parking at the Robert Morris Earthwork and Waterworks Gardens is limited.
- All of the sites require a lot of walking. The Robert Morris is not ADA and quite steep. Unless in good health, it is recommended that you not descend into the pit, but instead view the site from the parking lot. Sturdy shoes are recommended. Goats help with vegetation management but are not on site year-round.
- For more information about touring these sites, please contact Ronda Billerbeck
The Green River Valley, located just south of Seattle, hosts an extraordinary collection of land art and reclamation sites. Collectively, these sites are referred to as “earthworks.” The Herbert Bayer Earthwork, Green River Natural Resources Area, the Robert Morris Earthwork and Lorna Jordan’s Waterworks Gardens are more than just visually interesting and fun to experience: these places demonstrate important, artistic solutions to complicated land-use issues such as flood control and reclamation.
In 1979, the artist Robert Morris was at the forefront of both Minimalism and Land Art when he was asked by the King County Arts Commission to reclaim a gravel pit overlooking the Valley. A few months later, at the request of the Kent Arts Commission, the Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer was asked to integrate a stormwater detention dam into a public park. Both of these artists were commissioned as part of the King County Arts Commission’s groundbreaking Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture symposium.
"The symposium is still remarkable to this day. It marks an important moment in thinking - that artists could be meaningful place makers - that they could use their skill and visionary spirit to create spaces for public use." - Cath Brunner, 4Culture
The same year as the symposium, the Kent Public Works Department began transforming an abandoned sewage lagoon into one of the largest man-made, multi-use wildlife refuges in the United States. Two decades later, Lorna Jordan’s ecological artwork at the Renton sewage treatment plant began purifying stormwater, enhancing a wetland, and providing eight acres of garden rooms and open space for public use.
These public places are remarkable. While they would normally have been fenced-off from all visitors, due to the artists’ involvement, these industrial sites are destinations for international and local tourists. Now with the opening of the Earthworks Tour, individuals with a passion for bird watching, landscape design, ecology and art can visit on bicycle.
This website provides an introduction to these four landscapes, with a special emphasis on the Herbert Bayer Earthwork, which is an important part of the City of Kent's public art collection. The Robert Morris Earthwork and Lorna Jordan's Waterworks Gardens are both part of 4Culture's public art collection, located in Sea-Tac and Renton, respectively. As noted above, the Green River Natural Resources Area is managed by the City of Kent's Public Works Department.
Follow us on Facebook.
A dam in the ordinary sense constitutes a radical interference with the natural configuration of the land. My intent was, therefore, to give the dams a natural appearance conforming to the landscape . . .
Herbert Bayer, King County Arts Commission newsletter, August 1982
As a Bauhaus master, Herbert Bayer’s entire career was dedicated to integrating artistic concerns into the everyday operations of society. With the Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks, he created a much loved public park, a stormwater detention dam and a Modernist masterpiece. Installed in 1982, the Earthworks was immediately lauded for its fusion of art and infrastructure, making the installation a powerful precedent for engineers, landscape architects and artists.
A series of sculpted spaces that feel both ancient and modern, the Earthworks’ pure forms—cones, circles, lines and berms—are built into the alluvial delta at the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon. Grass and concrete, a wood bridge and steps: these are the materials at work, joined by the natural forces of Mill Creek itself.
[editor's note: When Herbert Bayer first began exploring land art in Aspen, CO in 1955, the term earthwork didn't exist. The title of the artwork in Kent is the "Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks," but we often refer to it as the "Earthwork", or to the "Herbert Bayer Earthwork" to distinguish it from Robert Morris' work.]
These aerial photographs illustrate how the Herbert Bayer Earthworks performs during a storm event. While they are not taken from exactly the same orientation, you can still see how the double-ring pond is submerged underwater in the photograph on the left, with the split-rings barely rises above the surface. You can also see how the large berm functions as both a sculptural element and earthen dam, preventing the stormwater from flooding downtown Kent.
Restoration & Landmark Designation
In April 2008, Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks was proclaimed "exceptionally significant" and became the City of Kent's first landmark.
Later that summer, the Earthworks underwent a dam safety construction project. This project was necessary because state regulations required the dam to meet a 10,000 year storm event, an increase from the dam's original 100-year storm design. Substantial changes were made to the dam's main berm and spillways to meet this increase in stormwater capacity.
After removing invasive plants, Earth Day volunteers pose with the Partners in Preservation "Vote Eartworks: Kent's Dam Park" yard signs, 2010.
The Kent Arts Commission is committed to honoring the physical and conceptual aspects that comprise Herbert Bayer's original design. Generous support for the first phase of restoration came from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Partners in Preservation" program and a 4Culture Landmark Challenge grant. The funding allowed the City of Kent to improve drainage in the bowls, repave the pathways, restore the double-ring pond and restore the view corridor along the stream.
Kent’s “Dam” Park Wins $70,000 “Partners in Preservation” Award Thanks to Community Support
KENT, Wash. — June 15, 2010 — American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park has been named recipient of a $70,000 grant award in the 2010 “Partners in Preservation” program. One of 25 historic place contenders, Herbert Bayer Earthworks competed in a month long contest where the public voted online for their favorite places to receive funding.
“We couldn’t have done it without the public’s support,” said Cheryl dos Remedios, Visual Arts Coordinator for the City of Kent. “Their votes really made a difference. We finished in 12th place with three percent of the vote.”
Grant winners were chosen by an Advisory Committee comprised of civic and preservation leaders from the Seattle-Puget Sound area, as well as representatives from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Factors that were considered in the selection process included public voting results and community support for the project, the preservation needs of the site, historic significance, project completion ability, and the role the site plays in the community.
“Funding from this grant will be used to restore the sculptural and artistic elements of the Earthworks to their original design. This includes restoring the channel that runs through the split ring and connects into the double ring pond. We’ll also fix drainage in the bowls of the park and repave pathways,” Remedios said.
The Earthworks is not only an internationally recognized artwork and popular public park but it also serves as a water detention dam, protecting the Kent Valley from flooding since its opening in 1982.
See also Kent's Earthworks Park to get much needed facelift, thanks to grant by Steve Hunter of the Kent Reporter, and City of Kent receives $70,000 grant for Earthworks Park. Earthworks Park Restoration, Phase 1, October - December, 2011 (photos: Kent Arts Commission and Kent Parks Planning)
Essays and Studio
With tongue firmly in cheek, the channeling herbert exhibition provided contemporary comment on Bayer's design in the face of change. As part of the 25th Anniversary Earthworks Celebration, the Kent Arts Commission invited respected artists, landscape architects and historians to participate in this exhibit. Images and essays by over thirty-five participants allow for a deeper understanding of Herbert Bayer's influence.
As much as Herbert Bayer created a physical place, he also created a model for interdisciplinary collaboration. In this spirit, in 2007 the Kent Arts Commission asked a University of Washington Studio to collaborate with Kent Public Works to address new storm water regulations and vegetation management. The Studio also reviewed archival documents to clarify Bayer's vision for his project, as it was designed and as it has aged. The City of Kent Public Works Department hopes to incorporate some of the students' design solutions into future projects along the canyon.
"Park" does not begin to describe the critically acclaimed land art to be found [in the Green River Valley]. For the last 40 years, forward-thinking arts commissioners and government employees have explored creative alliances, nontraditional funding sources, existing land-use regulations, and a public process to reclaim and reshape these lands."
"Earthworks: Art & Landscape in Washington's Green River Valley" by Cheryl dos Remedios, Forum Journal, National Trust for Historic Preservation
"Twenty-five years ago, in the younger, bolder days of Washington's public-art programs, the mayor of a small city south of Seattle latched onto a grand vision for a public-works project. The engineering need was straightforward: a dam that would prevent stormwaters from deluging the city."
"Work of art, work of Earth" by Sheila Farr, Seattle Times art critic
"Herbert Bayer was born in the hamlet of Haag, Austria, on April 5, 1900. His father, a government revenue officer, and mother encouraged young Herbert’s interest in nature and art, allowing him to roam into the hills and mountains near his childhood home in Linz with his sketchbook."
"Herbert Bayer (1900-1985): Profile of an Environmental Artist" by Catherine Maggio and Brice Maryman, The Cultural Landscape Foundation
"Formal recognition of historic properties through landmark designation is typically confined to sites that are at least 40 years old or older – and rarely is a property found to be of such exceptional significance that the age criterion is waived. But such was the case on April 24, 2008 when the King County Landmarks Commission, acting for the City of Kent, designated the Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks as a City of Kent Landmark. Nominated by the Kent Arts Commission, the Earthworks is the City’s first designated landmark."
"Earthworks Designated Historic Landmark" by Julie Koler and Cheryl dos Remedios
"In 1979, The King County Arts Commission convened a symposium entitled Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Scupture, and invited eight artists to create reclamation plans, choosing from more than 100 industrial sites lying fallow in the county. The commissione hoped ot address the ecological issues at each site while converting the landscapes into usable community spaces through earthwork designs."
"Landslide 2008 Marvels of Modernism: Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks" by Brice Maryman and Cheryl dos Remedios, Kent Arts Commission and The Cultural Landscape Foundation
For more information, please contact Ronda Billerbeck, Cultural Programs Manage
This short film explores the Earthworks' contribution to the field of Public Art and explains how an icon of green infrastructure has evolved over time.
In the 1970s, a group of women living in Kent desired to start an arts commission. Their plans quickly became intertwined with the broader history of public art in our region. Installed in 1982, the Earthworks was immediately lauded for its fusion of art and infrastructure, yet the issues that initially necessitated the project continue to intensify. Changes in storm water and fisheries regulations have impacted the work, prompting a cross-disciplinary investigation into the artist Herbert Bayer's original intent, his biography and his influence. In 2008, the Earthworks was designated an "exceptionally significant" local landmark, just prior to a major dam safety construction project. Today, as the Earthworks is being renovated, the Kent Arts Commission continues to host contemporary dance performances and eco-art installations at the site.
Originally created for the Americans for the Arts earthworks tour, the premiere public screening of this documentary took place at the Henry Auditorium on Thursday, September 24, 2009. The evening began with a cello performance by the composer Paul Rucker, who also contributed the soundtrack.
This documentary is a collaboration between many organizations and individuals, including the Kent Arts Commission, the Kent Landmarks Commission, the City of Kent Cultural Division, Parks Planning and Maintenance, Environmental Engineering and Multimedia. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank 4Culture, King County Historic Preservation Program, University of Washington's Department of Landscape Architecture's Construction/Hydrology Studio, SvR Design, Kent Historical Society, Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and Seattle Art Museum as well as all of the artists, landscape architects and historians who participated in the "channeling herbert" exhibition. We gratefully acknowledge all of the Kent community members who supported the installation of the Bayer Earthworks, as well as everyone involved in the "Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture" symposium.
In lasting remembrance of Seth Frankel, co-director/producer and editor.
Art at the Earthworks
On Opening Day of the Herbert Bayer Earthwork, the Seattle Symphony performed a composition inspired by the site. Since the 25th Anniversary in 2007, the Kent Arts Commission has hosted a variety of site specific installations and performances at the earthworks. Scroll down to view all the photos.
Earthworks Tour Inaugural Ride & Celebration
The Inaugural Ride & Celebration took place on June 2, 2012 with theater, music and artist-made vehicles. The event was co-produced by Cascade Bicycle Club and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and 4Culture with support from the Cities of Renton and Tukwila. We started off the day by thanking Partners in Preservation, a partnership between the American Express Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and 4Culture Preservation for their support of our restoration project. Featured artists included the Inkwell Collective, Theater Simple, Pony Boy All-Star Big Band, Johnnie Olivan of Rejuiced Bikes, Andrew Peterson, Clair Colquitt, Julie Lindell, Scott McGee and Peter Reiquam.
Earthworks 25th Annivesary Celebration & Americans for the Arts Tour
Partners in Preservation Open House & Earth Day at Earthworks
Image Credits: EARTHWORKS TOUR INAUGURAL RIDE & CELEBRATION (photos 1-6 © Charles Cortes) Mayor Suzette Cooke dedicating the restoration of the Herbert Bayer Earthwork; Anais Nin, © Julie Lindell; Low Impact Vehicle, © Clair Colquitt; Filaments © Inkwell Collective; Walk and Roll © Peter Reiquam; Bicyclists depart from the Herbert Bayer Earthwork; (photos 7-9 © Michelle Bates); Nopcicle Joe, © Clair Colquitt; Mayor Cooke and a horn player from the Pony Boy All-Star Big Band; Mural Machine by Robert Needham and Ray Bradley © Rejuiced Bikes; (photos 10-11 © Charles Cortes) Bicycle at Robert Morris Earthwork; Bicyclists at the Robert Morris Earthwork; (photos 12-21 © Michelle Bates) Flora & Fauna at the Green River Natural Resources Area © Theater Simple, photos 12 -18; Long Odds © Scott McGee at the Kent Farmers Market; Levitating Tents © Andrew Peterson by the KOA; Greg Williamson and the Pony Boy All-Star Big Band on the main stage. EARTHWORKS 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION & AMERICANS FOR THE ARTS TOUR (remaining photo credits City of Kent unless otherwise noted) Sam Bower, founding director of greenmuseum.org, speaking at the 25th Anniversary Celebration, 2007; The Daylighting by dancer/choreographer Alex Martin, copyright 2007, performed during the Americans for the Arts Tour in 2009; souvenir by Sola Christine, Earthworks 25th Anniversary Celebration and Reunion, 2007; Paul Rucker's quintet (composer/celloist not shown) 2007; The Daylighting by Alex Martin, performed in 2007; Kristin Tollefson's installation for the Americans for the Arts Tour, 2009; Mike Bayer performing live music for Alex Martin's choreography, 2007; Chromatic Levy by Brice Maryman, 2007 (photo credit: Brice Maryman). PARTNERS IN PRESERVATION OPEN HOUSE & EARTH DAY AT EARTHWORKS acornDance performing on Earth Day at the Herbert Bayer Earthworks (photo credit: acornDance/Jim Clymer, 2010). acornDance shown with Mandy Greer's installation, 2010; Mater, Matrix, Mother and Medium by Mandy Greer, Earth Day 2010; Brian Levenhagen and the Walk & Roll, designed by Peter Reiquam, 2010; Rowan Fae Irish Dancers, Partners in Preservation Open House, 2010; a girl and her grandfather launching leaf boats by Kristin Tollefson, Earth Day 2010; Hawaiian Dance, Partners in Preservation Open House, 2010. acornDance performing on Earth Day at the Herbert Bayer Earthworks (photo credit: acornDance/Jim Clymer, 2010).
All SITE SPECIFIC performances sponsored by 4Culture.