I’ve gone virtual. Adapting to the COVID pandemic, I am leading a variety of VIRTUAL tours. Hope you can join me on one, listed below.
If you attended one of my virtual events and feel so inclined, a tip (or you could call it a donation) or simply a nice note is always appreciated. (Via Square) Thanks kindly.
As a former national park ranger, outdoor instructor, and museum educator, I have over 30 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. Locally, I have given tours for MOHAI, Seattle Architecture Foundation, the Burke Museum, Historic Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild.
Below is a list of upcoming VIRTUAL 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 and cultural world around them and to reconsider places they may have taken for granted.
Upcoming Walks and Talks
- The Secret of Seattle’s Disappearing Hill with Airbnb and Atlas Obscura – 5:00 P.M. – I will be leading a tour of the Denny Regrade using modern and historic photos. Join guests from around the world. Multiple dates (September 30). Link above takes you to all dates.
- September 22, 2020 – 6:00 P.M. – Seattle Architectural Foundation – We had so much fun the first two walks, we’re doing it again. It’ll be my Denny Hill-The Disappearing Hill talk. There’s still space and time left to sign up.
Each of my new hour-long programs (which includes time for Q&A) is a Zoom meeting of a PowerPoint presentation with me as a live narrator of a walking tour or talk. To try to make it feel more in-person, I incorporate video and Google Earth to travel to different locations. I am also available for questions throughout and after the talk.
Secrets of Seattle Disappearing Denny Hill – Now available as a virtual walk. Since settlers first arrived in Seattle, the city’s citizens have altered the landscape with an unrivaled zeal. We have regraded hills, reengineered tideflats, and replumbed lakes to provide better locations for business and easier ways to move through the challenging topography. Weaving together geology and social history, I highlight the unprecedented Denny Regrades (from 1897-1930) as a way to provide a foundation for understanding Seattle and how its topography shaped its destiny. This talk is based on my award winning book, Too High and Too Steep.
Stories in Stone – Now available as a virtual walk around Seattle or as a tour around the United States and Italy. 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, based on my book, Stories in Stone (which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award), 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.)
Who’s Watching You? – Now available as a virtual walk. Do you ever have the feeling that you are being watched when you walk in downtown Seattle? You are probably right. Hundreds of eyes peer out from buildings in the city observing your every step. Neither human nor electronic, these ever-present watchers belong to dozens of carved and molded animals gazing out from Seattle buildings. Based on my book, Seattle Walks, this 1.5 mile virtual walk through Seattle’s central business district will reveal a menagerie of beasts fabled, fantastic, and fierce, including lions, eagles, ducks, and walruses, in addition to likely sightings of live birds and other animals in our city. No binoculars needed.
Secrets of the Ship Canal and Locks – Now available as a virtual talk. Few engineering projects have shaped Seattle as much as the construction of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Ship Canal. Nor do many have as many false starts, political shenanigans, and chaotic history. In this talk based on my co-authored history of the canal and locks, Waterway (which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award), I share the far-reaching social, economic, and environmental impacts of the canal’s construction and operation.
Secrets of Seattle’s Botanical Past – Now available as a virtual talk. If you asked early citizens of Seattle which natural feature best symbolized the region, few would have hesitated in responding “Douglas firs.” These trees were everywhere, but they were not the only plants in the area. In this virtual talk, I describe the presettlement botanical landscape of Seattle by examining modern clues, such as neighborhood names, big stumps, and big trees, that provide hints for telling this story and for showing the complexity and beauty of Seattle 150 years ago.
Secrets of Seattle Geology – Now available as a virtual talk. Unlike many regions in the country, the Seattle area is contantly reminded of its geologic past, present, and future. Whether it is our landslides, our glacier-carved topography, or our volatile volcanoes, this area’s geologic history is young, dynamic, and accessible. In this virtual talk, I will explain why we can blame California for some of our geo hazards, how coal influenced our economic development, and why its harder to travel east/west than north/south.
Puget Sound: A Maritime Highway – Now available as a virtual talk. From canoes to the mosquito fleet to our modern day ferry system, boats have been a principal means of travel around Puget Sound. In a landscape dominated by forest and sea, water was often the best way to get from point A to point B. In this talk, which is based on research for my next book about human and natural history in Puget Sound, I explore the 13,000-year history transportion in this extraordinary waterway to illustrate how landscape has a central influence on the residents of a place and how they live their lives.
Here’s a link to talk I did for HistoryLink at its annual HistoryLunch.
Each of the talks consists of a 35-45 minute Powerpoint presentation. I can provide either a thumb drive or laptop to plug into your system.
- 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
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.”
Climate Challenge Programs Coordinator
North Cascades Institute
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