• View from Sourdough Mountain Overlook  A view looking down onto Diablo Lake. Photo Credit: NPS/Michael Silverman, 2010.

    North Cascades

    National Park Washington

There are park alerts in effect.
show Alerts »
  • Highway 20 Will Be Closed East of the Park For Culvert Repairs On Oct 21 & 22.

    Highway 20 will be completely closed between mileposts 147 & 157 (Granite Creek to Rainy Pass) from 6 a.m. Oct. 21 to 4 p.m. Oct. 22. The Easy Pass trailhead will be inaccessible during this time. More »

  • Diablo Lake To Be Drawn Down Three Feet in Oct., Trailer-Launched Boats Affected

    Diablo Lake will be drawn down 3 vertical feet for facility repairs from October 8-17. During the drawdown, boats with trailers will not be able to launch or take boats off the water. Hand-launched vessels will still be able to launch. More »

  • Cascade River Road will be open as normal through fall/winter 2014

    Cascade River Rd. will be open in 2014 until snow conditions make it impassable to vehicles, as normal. The road closure that was planned to begin September 8 has been postponed beyond 2014 due to unforeseen circumstances. More »

Rivers and Streams

Rafting on the Skagit River
Local youth from a summer camp prepare to raft down the Skagit River from the Goodell Creek campground site.
NPS/Snyder
 

In the heart of the forest, a hiker rests on a log stretched across a rushing stream. At water’s edge, a newly emerged dragonfly tests its wings in the chill air. Just below the tumbling surface, young salmon leave their rocky beds to make their way downstream in search of the sea. In a myriad of ways, flowing water is the lifeblood and defining element of the North Cascades.


Major rivers continually shape the landscape on all sides of the Cascade Crest and provide key habitat for thousands of species of plants and animals. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the North Cascades. To the north, the Chilliwack River leaves the park to combine with the Fraser River in British Columbia (the largest watershed along the west coast of North America). The Nooksack River flows west beyond Mount Baker beginning its journey near Mt. Shuksan (the park's most photographed peak). Baker River drains the Picket Range and southeast slopes of Mount Baker joining the Skagit River, which flows from Canada, then westward across the middle of North Cascades National Park Complex. The Skagit is the largest watershed emptying into Puget Sound. In spite of the three dams along its length, the Skagit supports all five species of Pacific salmon and two anadromous (or sea-going) trout. The Stehekin River drains the southeast corner of the park to feed Lake Chelan – a glacier-carved trough which at 1500 feet is the third deepest natural lake in the nation. The waters of Lake Chelan eventually make their way to the mighty Columbia River, the largest river system in the western US.

These large rivers are fed by hundreds of streams with their origins in the steep mountains and glaciers. Late each summer these streams carry finely ground rock particles, or glacial flour, that cloud the water and lend a characteristic color. Local nicknames for the Skagit River include the Emerald Skagit and the Magic Skagit. The most dramatic contribution to this phenomenon is from Thunder Creek, which drains over fifty glaciers before flowing into the turquoise reflecting waters of Diablo Lake reservoir.


For the early peoples of this region the rivers were home, serving as means of transport, a key source of food, and clean drinking water. This still holds true today, and for the modern visitor the flowing waters of the North Cascades provide additional values of recreation, education, inspiration and hydropower.

Did You Know?

North Cascades is now on Flickr!

North Cascades National Park is uploading its digital image library to Flickr! Be inspired, download your favorite images, or even add your own vacation photographs to the group pool: Friends of the North Cascades. More...