Walks & Talks


170718-nswa-williams-03As a former national park ranger, outdoor instructor, and museum educator, I have over 25 years of speaking experience. I have given talks to elementary school children, Elderhostel participants, and teachers. I have given presentations while canoeing in canyon country, walking through downtown Boston, and in formal classroom settings.

Below is a list of upcoming walks and talks, as well as descriptions of some of the walks and talks I have developed. I hope they encourage people to look more carefully at the natural world around them and to reconsider places they may have taken for granted.

Upcoming Walks and Talks

  • March 9, 2019 – 2:00 to 3:00 P.M. – Everett Public Library – I will be speaking about Too High and Too Steep. Free and open to the public.
  • March 22, 2019 – Palm Desert, California – I will be speaking about my Puget Sound book at the University of Washington’s Dawg Days in the Desert for the UW Libraries and UW Press. More info to come.
  • April 12, 2019 – Fort Worden State Park – I will be speaking about Puget Sound: A Maritime Highway for the Friends of Fort Worden State Park. More info to come.
  • April 18, 2019 – Renton History Museum – I will be speaking about the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the Locks, and the Loss of the Black River. More info to come. Free and open to the public.

Contact David for availability and rates.


  • Downtown Rock Hound – Most people do not think of looking for geology from the sidewalks of Seattle, but for the intrepid geologist any good rock can tell a fascinating story. All one has to do is look at building stone in downtown Seattle to find a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. Furthermore, building stones provide the foundation for constructing stories about cultural as well as natural history. On this 1.5-mile long walk, we will explore stone ranging from 3.5-billion years old to 120,000 years old, fossils as large as a cinnamon roll, and rock used by the Romans to build the Colosseum. We will discuss history, geology, and architecture to give you a new way to appreciate the urban wilds of Seattle.

“If you’d asked me two years ago if I’d be more excited about a type of rock than a type face, I would have laughed. However, the Stories in Stone tour changed that for me! As the Tours Director of the Seattle Architecture Foundation, we frequently partner with subject matter experts, and David B. Williams knows his rocks! I was captivated by his breadth of knowledge and his presentation: he really makes geology come to life. The lower level of the façade of the Exchange Building is clad in Morton Gneiss (a rock more than 3.5 billion years old). Previously, when I tried to humanize the scale of the building, I’d always draw attention to the demure, eye-level, quintessential Art Deco building sign. Now, it’s all about the material! Stories in Stone really opened my eyes to the way stone contributes to the over-all impact of a building. His tour is a fabulous urban adventure and you’ll see Seattle in an entirely new light.”
~ Roberta Miner
Tours Director
Seattle Architecture Foundation

  • The Protean Shoreline – More so than most cities, Seattle has shaped itself to suit its needs. Seattle has removed hills, filled tide flats, and created a completely new downtown shoreline. On this 1.5-mile-long walk we’ll explore the last vestiges of the former downtown bluffs, trace the island where Seattle was founded, and examine how the subterranean fill still affects the modern landscape.
  • “David Williams is an adept and entertaining guide. His inner-city naturalist walks provided participants a rare and thoughtful view into the oft-overlooked processes of urban ecology, from wide vistas across the Puget Sound to microscopic investigation of the stones beneath our feet. I would definitely recommend him to anyone who wants to see cities in a different light.”
    ~ Megan McGinty
    Climate Challenge Programs Coordinator
    North Cascades Institute


  • Stories in Stone: Most people do not think of looking for geology from the sidewalks of a major city, but for the intrepid geologist any good rock can tell a fascinating story. All one has to do is look at building stone to find a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. Furthermore, building stones provide the foundation for constructing stories about cultural as well as natural history. In this talk, I explore building stone from around the country, ranging from rock used by the Romans to build the Colosseum to a gas station made of petrified wood to a granite quarry that lead to the first commercial railroad in the United States. (I can tailor this program specifically to Seattle.)
  • The Man Who Invented Dinosaurs: Life-sized dinosaurs made their world debut in 1854 at the Crystal Palace in London. Incredibly popular, they launched our nearly 200-year-long obsession with all things dinosaur. Fourteen years later, dinosaurs made their debut in America with a standing skeleton at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Both displays were made by artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. Hawkins also tried to build a dinosaur museum in New York but was thwarted by the notorious scoundrel Boss Tweed, whose henchmen destroyed two years of Hawkins’ work. In this talk, I will explore the life of Hawkins, showman, sculptor, and friend of Darwin and Huxley. Oh yeah, he was also a bigamist, with two wives living just miles apart.
  • The Street-Smart Naturalist: Botany and bugs, geology and geese, creeks and crows; living in a major city doesn’t have to separate us from the natural world. Nature is all around us, if we take the time to look, especially in a place as filled with green spaces as Seattle. In this talk, I weave together personal musings, bits of humor, natural history observations, and scientific data to reveal a side of the city often overlooked by many. (I can tailor this talk to what your group wants to focus on.)

Past Walks and Talks

4th Annual Denny Lecture Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Pacific Northwest Historians Guild (Keynote), Highline Historical Society, Shannon & Wilson, Inc., Washington Business and Professional Women’s Club (Campus Chapter), Washington State Ridesharing Organization (Keynote), Tucson Festival of Books, Structural Engineers Association of Washington (Keynote), Construction Specifications Institute (Seattle Chapter), Road Scholar (aka Elderhostel), Centralia College Lyceum Lecture Series, Seattle Architectural Foundation, Architectural Heritage Center, Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door, North Cascades Institute, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle Audubon Society, Washington Ornithological Society, Northwest Geological Society, StoneFest, Bellevue Rock Club, Portland State University, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, The Rainier Club, Colorado College Alumni Association, University of Chicago Alumni Association, Elderhostel, Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Site, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, Washington Native Plant Society, University of Washington Program on the Environment, Northwest Sustainability Conference, Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, Homewaters Project, Horizon House, Ida Culver House, Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources, Cowlitz County Historical Museum, Northwest Perennial Alliance, Wenatchee River Institute, North Seattle Lapidary and Gem Club, Endless Opportunities-Jewish Family Service, Jefferson Land Trust Geology Group