History & Culture

Person on a horse crossing a lake

Learn more about the human history of people in the park complex that goes back thousands of years.

a person taking a photo with a horse on top of a mountain.

Stories of the North Cascades are plentiful with many different chapters.

black and white photo of a mountainous ridge

History is written on the landscape through human structures and cultural landscapes.

a person holding a rock

North Cascades National Park Service Complex maintains a museum collection and archives that reflect the history, geology and biological div


Key areas of work and research for the Cultural Resources Division of North Cascades NPSC are outlined here and in the collections link on this site. You can also learn about projects through resource briefs on current research.

Archeological Inventory

Even the most rugged and remote areas of the park contain sensitive archeological resources. Surveys are conducted to inventory archeological sites prior to any undertakings. Currently, 260 prehistoric sites have been identified, some dating older than 8,500 years. As a result of these studies, it is now widely recognized that the extensive subalpine landscape of the North Cascades contributed importantly to Northwest Coast Indian economies. Historic archeological sites include mines and mining camps, fire lookouts, sheep herder camps, sawmills, homesteads and a "lost" hotel.

Archeological Testing

Archeological sites are test excavated to assess their significance to the National Register of Historic Places. These excavations have contributed new and unanticipated information about indigenous use of the mountains, including the use of alpine obsidian sources in NOCA for the last 5,000 years; the establishment of regular travel routes for the movement of resources and people; the exploitation of mountain goats and other native fauna and flora; a geologic record of Cascade volcano eruptions which are used to mark the timing of both human and climatic events; and a radiocarbon chronology providing a timescale for human uses, natural events, and climatic changes in the North Cascades. Recent research at Cascade Pass has yielded a wealth of data about human activity spanning the last 9,600 years.


Historic Preservation

The cultural resources branch is responsible for the inventory and monitoring of over 81 unique and nationally recognized buildings and structures within the Park Complex. Additionally, there are remnants of at least 23 historic cultural landscapes within park boundaries. These historic treasures range from abandoned mines to a historic hotel that captures the spirit of rustic recreation in wilderness areas. These structures are regularly inventoried and their condition is monitored to ensure that they are managed in the most efficient and cost effective manner.

Last updated: March 5, 2024

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Mailing Address:

810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284


360 854-7200

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