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Chapter 7

The Skagit—Roads

From Alexander Ross' abortive hike across the North Cascades in 1814 until today, Washingtonians have dreamed of a road across the northern part of the state. Only now is that dream becoming realized. In a very few years the North Cross-State Highway will be completed. Then the agricultural products of the Okanogan Valley and the Spokane Plains will speed their way to the markets of Tacoma, Seattle, and overseas. Visitors will be able to drive through Ross Lake NRA, up Ruby and Granite Creeks, over Rainy Pass, and down into the Twisp Valley of Okanogan National Forest. Efforts to build such a road began a long time ago.

After McClellan decided in 1873 that no suitable pass existed for a route through today's park, interest in communication over the northern mountains lay dormant until the Ruby Creek gold rush of 1879-80. Although Territorial Governor I. I. Stevens asked the legislature in the 1850s to appropriate funds for a road up the Skagit and on to Fort Colville, nothing came of his proposal. [1]

Both miners and merchants demanded an improved trail up the Skagit during the Ruby Creek boom. The lower river was no problem once the log jams had been blasted out. In 1878, the steamer Wenat traveled up the Skagit 14 miles. The next year, the Josephine ascended as far as Minkler's sawmill near Birdsview. The trip was not without incident. One of the passengers fell overboard and drowned. The ship's cook jumped in to save him, but succeeded only in nearly drowning himself. By 1880, both the Chehalis and the Josephine were plying the river as far as the portage, a mile or so above Bacon Creek (and inside today's park boundary). From the portage, miners continued on to Goodell's Landing by canoe. Beyond that they traveled on foot. Steamboat passengers had to pay $12 at first to travel from Mount Vernon to the portage; later the price dropped to $8. Although the mining excitement went into a temporary lull after 1880, steamers continued to travel on the river. In 1883, the Josephine's boiler blew up, killing nine of her 30 passengers. [2] Other boats said to have been on the Skagit in 1884 include the Quincy, the Glide, and the Washington.

Above the portage, miners found travel extremely difficult, even dangerous. Between Ruby Creek and Newhalem, the Skagit flowed through narrow, steep canyons. High mountains on either side forced the traveler either to make his way along a narrow trail clinging to the canyon walls or to detour far to the north around Sourdough Mountain. Most took their chances on the canyon route. Consequently, a great amount of effort went into attempts to improve this trail.

At a meeting at Squire's Opera House in Seattle in December 1879, interested citizens passed a resolution to build a trail on this part of the river. A hat-passer collected no less than $1,517 that evening as a contribution toward construction. At that time a Professor Tiernan wrote to the editor of the North Pacific Coast describing the trail:

The trail from Goodell's Landing to the mines follows the left bank [apparently meaning the north bank] of the river except where one of the many mountains intervene . . . The trail as now traveled crosses a level bar from Goodell's to Taylor's, a distance of two and one-half miles, and all that is requisite to make it a first-class mule trail is to cut the brush and clear the fallen timber.

After leaving Taylor's the roughest portion of the trail begins [Tower end of the Gorge], in order to cross Cedar Bar Mountain [Mt. Ross?] which is perpendicular and about two and one-half miles from base to base. On this mountain are encountered the most frightful passes of the trip, some of them known as Abraham's Slide, Jacob's Ladder, Wilson's Creep Hole, Break Neck Peak, Frightful Chasm, Perpendicular Rock. . . . The crossing of this mountain can be obviated by crossing the Skagit, either by a bridge or ferry [neither yet existing], and grading a trail on a comparatively easy grade [on the south side] to a point known as Skedaddle creek. . . . Then is encountered what is known as Sour Dough mountain. . . . This mountain can be avoided by crossing the Skagit [again to the south side], either by ferry or bridge, and grading a trail along the foothills and continuing . . . up to the mouth of Ruby Creek.

Tiernan also acknowledged that one could travel around Sourdough to the north, but he did not seem to be impressed by this long route. [3]

The Day Brothers & Cockrane of Mount Vernon estimated that they could build a trail through the canyon for $1,650; and they promptly got the contract for the job. But, in the spring of 1880, they decided that their estimate had been much too low and declined to undertake the project. That summer, the commissioners of Whatcom County appropriated $1,600 for the trail, with the expectation that the territorial government would supply an equal amount. However, the latter failed to respond. Since the county commissioners could not find $1,600 anyway, no progress was made on the trail that year. With the collapse of the boom about then, pressure from prospectors declined. Travelers continued to scramble along the cliffs to get over what some called the "Goat Trail." [4]

Below today's Gorge Dam is a particularly precipitous cliff known since the 1880s as the Devil's Corner or Devil's Elbow. The present highway goes through this area by means of tunnels, tunnel no. 1 being at the steepest part of the difficult section. Miners of the 1880s managed to find footholds around this cliff. Travelers agreed with Tiernan that a bridge would have to be built at this point. The renewal of mining activity in the 1890s finally brought about the bridge. It first spanned the river in 1892. But high water in 1894 washed this bridge out. Not until 1902 was it reconstructed. The engineer on this occasion was O. P. Manson, whose name stuck to the new bridge until it too was washed out in 1909. [5]

With the growth of mining activity at Barron on Slate Creek and on upper Thunder Creek in the 1890s, various efforts were made to improve the Skagit Trail, including the section at Devil's Corner after the first bridge washed out. About 1895, $500 was raised, apparently by the citizens of Anacortes, for work on the worst parts of the canyon. At Devil's Corner miners blasted out the rock to make half-tunnels and by adding suspension bridges and handrails completed a passable if still dangerous trail. Some of these suspension bridges were later replaced--the new ones being erected on top of the first. Extensive traces of this ingenious road may still be seen. [6] Forest Ranger C. C. McGuire wrote graphically of the dangers he faced when crossing the Devil's Corner in the fall of 1909:

We had a pack horse with us and when we got to Devil's Elbow the drip from over head had completely blocked the half tunnel with ice. We chopped our way through but it was very dangerous for the horse to get through for one slip would send him over the cliff into the river 50 feet below. So we tight-lined him across. To those who do not know what is meant by a tight-line, the following is in order. A rope was fastened to the horse's neck and I carried one end across. Another rope was tied around the horse's tail and the loose end with a couple turns around a tree. I took a turn around a tree with the lead rope and as my partner let out a few inches I would take up the slack, so at all times the horse was in the center of the tight line. Though the horse fell several times we inched him across. [7]

Above Devil's Corner, dams and man-made lakes have altered the appearance of the Skagit. Little trace remains of the landmarks so familiar to the traveler at the turn of the century. Gone is Hanging Rock Camp, a camping place near a huge rock that had once crashed down the mountain. At this point, early travelers had installed Jacob's Ladder, a rope affair that helped them over the rocky cliff. Near the Davis homestead at Cedar Bar, a catwalk, called Long Bridge, stretched along the canyon wall. Eventually, a bridge crossed the Skagit to the south side at this point and trails ran from it up Thunder Creek and on up the Skagit along Diablo Canyon (then called Box Canyon). [8]

Meanwhile, the state legislature authorized the first major assault on the problem of finding a suitable route for a trans-mountain road leading from Bellingham Bay, past the mines, and on to the cattle ranges east of the mountains. In 1893, the legislature designated this project as Road District Number One and appropriated $20,000. It also called upon the various counties involved to contribute a total of $7,000 to the effort. A three-man road commission, a Mr. Oliver, John J. Cryderman, and T. P. Hannegan, was to oversee the planning and development. They in turn appointed a group of surveyors who recommended that a road be built up the Nooksack River, passing to the north of Mount Shuksan, through Hannegan Pass, and down the headwaters of Chilliwack River. At this point they would have reached, probably unknowingly, the trail blazed by Henry Custer in 1858. The route would then follow Custer's path through Whatcom Pass and down Little Beaver Creek to the Skagit.

This scheme lived but a short life. The economic depression of 1894 destroyed any hope of this road being built. A newspaper reported that year that "no practical pass north of Mount Baker exists. There is no way through the Congress of Giants." Then, in 1895, the legislature again appropriated funds, this time for a road from Bellingham Bay to the Skagit, and up the river as far as Marblemount.

In contrast to past efforts, this road opened. From Marblemount, the commissioners had three possible choices of routes: up the Cascade River, over Cascade Pass, and down the Stehekin; up Thunder Creek, over the pass later known as Park, and down Park Creek to the Stehekin; and up Ruby and State creeks, over Harts Pass, and down the Methow. (The Barron mines were in operation that year and communication to them from the Methow Valley was a reality.) The surveyors took note of the improvements that the miners had made at Devil's Corner but decided that this last of the three possibilities was not advisable. The same fate befell Thunder Creek. The board recommended in the end that the "route up Twitsp [sic] river, over Twitsp pass, down Bridge creek, up the Stehekin river, over Cascade (or Skagit) pass and down the Cascade river the shortest and the most feasible and practicable." Thus the delicate beauty and massive grandeur of Cascade Pass came under their first major threat. [9]

Work on this route began in 1896. M. E. Field, proprietor of the Field Hotel at Stehekin, received a contract to build boarding houses on Bridge Creek and on the Stehekin for the construction crews. The locations of these structures, if they were more than tents, are not now known. He also hauled in supplies for the men's use. Very little surveying preceded the work, which consisted mostly in cutting trees and blasting rock. The "finished" product was little more than a pack trail from Gilbert Landre's cabin on the North Fork of Cascade River to the Twisp Valley. It cannot be considered a success. Keith Murray writes: "This inadequate road was marked on all state maps as the Cascade Wagon Road . . . By the spring of 1897 most of it had become all but impassable, even to a pack horse, because of slides and washouts." Nonetheless, the Chelan Leader reported optimistically in the autumn of 1897: "An Olympia dispatch says the Cascade division of the state wagon road from Marcus to Marblemount is completed, leaving $7,400 of the $20,000 appropriated by the last legislative [sic] to finish up the road in Stevens county." [10]

During the 1890s and the first years of the twentieth century, mining companies improved trails and built crude roads to their claims. Also, the U. S. Forest Service undertook trail construction throughout the North Cascades. Meanwhile, work fitfully continued on the Cascade Pass wagon road. In 1906 the state highway commissioner estimated that 75 percent of the $85,200 in state funds spent on the road to that date had been wasted, "since there were no passable roads to show for it." Murray has summarized the net results of this effort: a horse trail from Marblemount on the west side of the mountains to the summit of the Methow range toward the east--30 miles, a wagon road on the east side from the town of Twisp up to the headwaters of the Twisp River--12 miles, and a road and trail in the Stehekin Valley from the head of the lake to the junction of Bridge Creek--14 miles. [11]

For the next several years, the idea of the Cascade Pass road competed with attempts to push a road up the Skagit beyond Marblemount. In 1909, the state legislature appropriated $30,000 for Cascade Pass; however, the road commissioners refused to spend the money. Four years later attention switched and improvements were made both in the Methow Valley and on the Skagit between Marblemount and Bacon Creek. The latter consisted of two small bridges. By 1933, the road, by then designated first as Highway No. 11 and later as Roosevelt Highway, was still only 5-1/2 miles east of Marblemount.

During the depression, federal funds became available for limited extensions. For example, in 1938 a WPA construction camp was established at an abandoned mining camp on Ruby Creek. The workmen constructed four miles of roadbed along Ruby Creek, but fell far short of the goal of connecting up with the Harts Pass road on Slate Creek (opened by miners years earlier). After World War II, the Northern Cross-State Highway Association organized to promote a road across the mountains. The efforts of this group produced results. On September 29, 1968, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Rainy Pass marked the breakthrough of a road.

This road, which runs up Granite Creek to Rainy Pass, is not yet complete. Four-wheel vehicles can navigate it at present; but some time will yet pass before the road is paved. The magnitude of the task to complete this road perhaps may be illustrated by the fact that 155 years have passed since Alexander Ross first looked for a feasible route through this wild country. [12]

The idea of a road crossing Cascade Pass lingered on for many years. Gradually roads in the Stehekin and the Cascade drainage approached each other. In 1917, the state legislature appropriated $4,625 for the construction of two miles of road from the Skagit up the Cascade. From 1924 to 1932 additional sums of money increased the length of this road. And in 1928 a bridge reached across the Skagit, tying in the Cascade River road with the main route up the Skagit. Loggers, miners, and recreation seekers made use of this road. After World War II, in 1948, the concept of a "Mine to Market " road stimulated enough minds for a primitive road to be developed as far as Mineral Park at the junction for the North and South Forks. Since then, the road has reached the area of the famed Boston and other claims, about two miles short of Cascade Pass itself. [13]

The Skagit—Railroads

By 1890, the Seattle and Northern Company had pushed a railroad up the Skagit Valley to a point six miles below Hamilton. That same year, James J. Hill's newly-formed Great Northern Railway Company purchased the Fairhaven and Southern line that had reached Sedro Woolley in 1889. By 1891, the Great Northern had control of the valley and had extended its railroad up the river to Rockport, at the confluence of the Skagit and the Sauk.

Hill's ambition was to drive his railroad across the North Cascades to link Seattle and Spokane with iron, thus completing his railroad from St. Paul to Puget Sound. He employed an outstanding engineer, John F. Stevens, to survey a route across the North Cascades.

The Chelan Leader, in the fall of 1901, learned that Hill and Stevens were in the general area examining the possibility of constructing a line up the Skagit or perhaps over Cascade Pass. The editor thought that the "extreme secrecy of this trip" implied that "the great railroad magnate has projected a line over the mountains by way of the Skagit valley." Hill's avoidance of publicity made it difficult for the newspaper to keep tabs on him. On October 10, the Leader reported: "It now appears that before coming through to the Sound on his special car Mr. Hill made a trip from the headwaters of Lake Chelan into the heart of the Cascades as far as Bridge Creek." If indeed Hill passed through Chelan without the editor's knowledge, his security was a success.

Another account, with more detail, allows that Hill and Stevens visited the head of Lake Chelan by traveling from Marblemount up the Cascade River, over Cascade Pass, and down the Stehekin. Hill's party of 16 men stopped at the Pressentins' hotel at Marblemount and Otto (O.K.) Pressentin hired on as camp cook for the six-day expedition. In the end, Stevens was not impressed with this route. Once again, Cascade Pass was saved from cuts, tunnels, and bridges. [14] Stevens later selected the pass named for him south of today's park. Hill's Great Northern was to cross the mountains there through a 7.8 mile tunnel, still one of the longest railroad tunnels in the world.

In 1919, Seattle City Light Department began construction of its Seattle Skagit River Railway from the Great Northern's terminus at Rockport, up the Skagit, to its hydroelectrical developments. By 1920, this track had reached Gorge Creek, 25 miles from Rockport. Seven years later, the railroad was extended six miles to the construction site of Diablo Dam.

When construction began on Ross Dam 4-1/2 miles farther up the river, in 1937, freight cars reached that site by an ingenious method. At Diablo, the cars, one at a time, switched onto the platform of an inclined railway. This railway lifted them 600 feet up a cliffside at a 68% grade. An electric locomotive then hauled the cars one-quarter of a mile and pushed them onto a barge. A tugboat pulled the barge, which could carry two freight cars per trip, up Diablo Lake to the Ross Dam site. There, a cable winched the cars up another steep incline to the powerhouse yard. The system, although complicated, worked efficiently. The trains carried all the materials, equipment, and workers for the Diablo, Ross, and new Gorge Dams.

Although this railroad was not a common carrier, Seattle City Light accommodated the transportation needs of travelers and logging and mining companies along the Skagit in those roadless days. In 19628, City Light began its popular Skagit Tours, using its railroad to haul visitors in addition to supplies. From then until 1941 the train carried as many as 1,800 visitors a week. Although World War II brought an end to passenger service, the railroad continued to haul supplies to the dams until 1953.

Several years before that, the highway had been improved as far up the river as Newhalem. Trucks and passenger cars had increasingly taken over the role of carriers, leaving less for the train to do. In 1954, Seattle City Light sold the railroad equipment and the rails. Four years later, an improved highway curled through the Skagit canyons, past the Devil's Corner via tunnels, and on to the town of Diablo.

Mementoes of the railroad are still to be found along the river. Seattle City Light still conducts tours of its developments. These originate in the town of Newhalem. The visitors are taken to Diablo on busses, where they ascend to the top of Diablo Dam on the same inclined railroad that once hauled freight cars. In Newhalem, its black paint glowing and its brass sparkling, stands the steam engine "Old Number Six." It is all that is left of the Seattle Skagit River's rolling stock. Visitors are welcomed by Seattle City Light to climb over the engine, turn the wheels, and pull the levers.

At Marblemount, in private ownership, one of the electrified cars that used to run from Newhalem to Diablo stands on the side of the highway serving as a real estate office. Along the Skagit the curious wanderer may still find sections of the old railroad bed. The ties, now disintegrating, are still in place. Here and there, one may spot a railroad spike still holding firmly to a tie, even though the rails are gone. One of the best samples of roadbed together with a trestle in fair repair is across the mouth of Thornton Creek. Here the visitor may stretch his legs and follow the bed clearly for several hundred yards and, in his imagination, visualize Old Number Six chugging down the track. [15]

The Stehekin—Roads and Railroads

Like the Skagit drainage, the Stehekin River became the scene of efforts to build roads from the lakehead to the mines. From the earliest searches for minerals in the 1880s, the prospectors traveled on and, presumably, improved Indian trails along the Stehekin and Bridge Creek. By 1891, Danald Ferguson had acquired the Black Warrior, the Boston, and other claims, and planned the construction of a road from the steamer landing to these mines. Although James Hill turned down this area as a railroad route at this time, another company was investigating the possibility of a short railroad from Stehekin to the mines. This last was the Lake Chelan Railroad and Navigation Company, composed of a number of men from Omaha, Spokane, and Chelan. This company had other interests as well, including shipping on Lake Chelan and the Columbia River. While the Chelan Falls Leader reported that a railroad would "undoubtedly" be built to Horseshoe Basin in the summer of 18962, neither it nor Ferguson's road became realities. [16]

In 1892, Chelan County was created. One of the first tasks taken on by the county commissioners was the matter of a good road along the Stehekin. M. M. Kingman and others requested that a county road be built from the lakehead to the summit of,the Cascade Mountains. The Chelan Falls Leader reported that $1,000 was the sum required to build the necessary bridges. The commissioners appointed a surveyor and viewers and, in March, accepted a report calling for 18.7 miles of road, 60 feet wide, to be called the "Stehekin River Co. Road." By May the commissioners were authorizing payments for materials purchased for bridges at Devore Creek, B ridge Creek, and at a crossing of the Stehekin itself. In November they directed that the "said road be declared a Public Highway and ordered open." One might conclude that the three bridges were completed that year and that perhaps the former trail had been improved a little. But subsequent events would show that the route up the Stehekin was still but a trail and by no means a road in the accepted sense. [17]

It will be recalled that the state road commission undertook construction of a road up Cascade River, over Cascade Pass, down the Stehekin to Bridge Creek, then up that stream toward the Twisp, and that the rough trail that emerged was called the Cascade Wagon Road. The Chelan Leader's editor had this "road" very much on his mind throughout 1897. He urged the authorities to improve "the trail from the head of the lake to connect with the state trail at Bridge creek." This, of course, was none other than 1892's Stehekin River County Road. One reason the editor was so worked up about the need for improvements became clear on August 20, when he wrote: "Our business men [Chelan] will please make a note of the fact that lots of mining trade is going from Bridge Creek to the Twitsp because the trail is better than that to the head of Lake Chelan." [18]

Appropriations for public works take time. One year later the paper announced that a petition was circulating asking the state legislature to give $7,000 for a wagon road from Stehekin to Bridge Creek. Not until 1899 did word arrive that the state had appropriated $5,500 for this road and several other projects. In August, State Road Commissioner O. A. Hoag told the editor that he had inspected the work in progress and had found that the road had reached the eight—mile stake and that the bridge builders had begun their labors. A month later Hoag reported that the road had reached a point only three miles from Bridge Creek and that two of the three bridges were completed. At this point, the Indians on the Okanogan Reservation got an injunction against the commission for damage being done to their lands. While the injunction was soon dismissed, it nonetheless held up completion of the road. [19]

The results of the 1899 effort apparently were fairly respectable. Travelers around this time commented on the good trail up to Bridge Creek and indicated that from there on the Cascade Wagon Road was an inferior piece of work. Doubtlessly, further improvements were made in succeeding years. In 1915, rumors of a railroad to the principal claims again flared up. An Eastern syndicate bought three mines in Horseshoe Basin that year and indicated that it would put in a track to the mines.

Not until 1943 did and just two miles short that navigated this route to be found rusting away years, especially since activities, much of this today only to hikers and Like earlier rumors, this too burst. a passable road reach Horseshoe Basin of Cascade Pass on the eastern side. Trucks into the heart of the wilderness are still along the Landing at Stehekin. In recent the cessation of any extensive mining road has fallen into disrepair, being suited park animals. Here and there a rock slide, a washout, or vegetation is slowly changing the upper Stehekin back to its wilderness qualities. Automobiles may still drive from the Landing to Bridge Creek, where the present bridge has been ruled as unsafe for such weight.

Starting at the ten-mile post, one may leave the present road, which hugs the canyon bottom and hike up toward Coon Lake on the earlier roadbed that avoided the gorge. [20] Along Horseshoe Creek, the 1943 road stayed to the west bank, switchbacking its way upward. Before it, the old trail into the Basin was located on the east side of Horseshoe Creek.

Lake Chelan—Shipping

Once prospectors found minerals in the Stehekin drainage, it was but a matter of time before steamboats appeared on Lake Chelan. This handsome, fiord-like lake offered fifty miles of easy passage from the Columbia into the heart of the mountains. The collective evidence indicates that the first steamer, the Be lie (or Belle of Chelan), made its appearance on the lake in 18896. The firm of Goggins and Follett built the boat, apparently at the budding settlement of Lakeside (or Lake Park), next door to the village of Chelan. Charles Trow became the Belle's first captain, while R. J. Watkins took on the job of its first chief engineer. [21]

The following year the Omaha was launched and gave the Belle its first opposition. Howard A. Graham was appointed its first captain. The Omaha was built in Waukegan, Illinois, shipped by rail to the coast, and transported to Chelan aboard a wagon. This overland journey was not an especially easy task, for the Omaha measured 34 feet in length and had an 81/2—foot beam. In 1891, the Clipper, formerly a ferry on the Columbia River, joined the lake fleet. However, it lasted but one year in this new role. About the same time, two more boats, the Queen and the Dragon, entered service as transports to Stehekin. One year after her launching, the Queen, returning from Stehekin with a cargo of cord wood, ran into stiff winds. Her cargo shifted. The captain, Fred R. Burch, headed her for shore, but the boat sank in 16 feet of water The Dragon rescued the crew and brought them home safely. [22]

The Stehekin, the largest steamer yet on Lake Chelan, being 100 feet long and having a 16—foot beam, was commissioned in 1893. It proved to be a most popular boat. For the next decade it hauled miners, settlers, tourists, and celebrities up to Stehekin. Through old age, it retired in 1904. The newspaper kept the public fully informed on its activities during those years:

March 1897: "The Elegant and Comfortable Steamer Stehekin. Capt. Stewart Johnson. Makes two regular trips per week to the head of Lake Chelan and return carrying the United States Mails, passengers and freight."

April 1897: Round-trip fare was $4.

May 1897: "Ed Christie is painting and decorating the cabin of the Stehekin and is getting in wonderful effects of light and shade. He is a complete master of 'chiaro—oscuro' and his soft and dreamy tints are inimitable."

October 18967: R. J. Watkins bought out Stewart Johnson and became sole owner.

March 1898: Captain Watkins bought "new and elegant furniture" for the boat.

July 1898: The steamer was beached for a thorough overhauling. It got a new hull.

March 1900: "The steamer Stehekin is a 'thing of beauty and a joy.'" "In addition to a commodious ladies' cabin there has been added a gentleman's smoking room and a galley, the one forward and the latter aft of the cabin. A number one range and all the other accoutrements of a well furnished kitchen have been put in place, and regular meals will be furnished the passengers hereafter. The ladies' cabin is furnished with a grand piano, sofa and easy chairs. The pilot house has been placed above the cabin. On the lower deck is ample room for all the freight business likely."

May 1899: The Stehekin was overhauled and painted.

June 1899: An awning was added to the afterdeck.

July 1900: "Quite a number of people went up to Stehekin yesterday to attend the ceremonial opening of Field's new hotel by a grand ball last night."

May 1901: "Hereafter the officials of the mail steamer Stehekin will wear the regulation marine caps, which will arrive this week." [23]

Probably the next boat on the lake was a gasoline-powered craft called the Mountaineer. Ellery R. Fosdick had it in operation by 1897. Not much is known about this small craft. Possibly it served to haul barges carrying supplies or to tug log rafts down the lake. It apparently was still in operation as late as 1904. [24]

About 1897, the Omaha was rechristened the Rustler. Its owner in 1900 was Captain T. R. Gibson. It apparently had ceased to operate on the lake by 19604, not being included in a list of boats on the lake that year. [25] In 1898, a new vessel, called the Dexter, entered on the lake. The Chelan Leader reported in March: "The twin hulls for the new catamaran, 'The Dexter,' were successfully launched at the navy yard last week, and the shipwrights are busy decking her over." The Dexter was apparently the only catamaran launched on Lake Chelan during these early years of shipping history. By 1904 it was the only boat remaining outside the control of the Lake Chelan Navigation Company. At that time it was owned by Captain A. J. Dexter. [26]

The year 1897 saw the launching of another large boat on Lake Chelan, one that would rival the Stehekin for comfort if not for size. This boat was named the Swan, and like the Stehekin received considerable attention from the Chelan Leader:

September 18967: "H. R. Kingman will next week begin the building of a capacious steamer, to meet the increased demands of Lake Chelan traffic."

October 1897: "H. R. Kingman's new steamboat is beginning to show up well on the stocks."

December 1897: "John Carlyle has finished painting the hull of H. R. Kingman's new steamboat and it will probably be launched within the next few days."

January 1898: The steamer was launched, but not yet named.

February 1898: H. R. Kingman sold a half—interest in the steamer to M. M. Kingman. John Carlyle was hired as chief engineer. Steamer to be called the Swan.

March 1898: The Swan brought down from Stehekin "one of the largest rafts of logs ever towed on the lake."

November 1899. Swan to get a new wheel. It will operate during the winter while the Stehekin is being overhauled.

January 1900: The Swan "has a dandy whistle. It reverberates up and down the Chelan valley and sounds like a Great Northern passenger engine whistle."

The paper also reported in 1900 that by then Kingman and Sullins owned the Swan, but had leased it to Captain Watkins. By 1904, it was part of the fleet operated by the Lake Chelan Navigation Company. [27]

The third large steamer on Lake Chelan was christened the Lady of the Lake, a very popular boat bearing an even more popular name. Charles Allger and associates of Seattle initiated construction of this vessel in the fall of 1899. In July of the next year, the newspaper announced that the keel had been laid and that the boat's dimensions would be 112 feet by 16 feet overall. The paper now said that the owners were the Allger Brothers and that they came from Tacoma.

In August 1900, the Lady of the Lake was launched--after a fashion. Festivities began with a free dance in the Lakeside city hall. The next morning several hundred witnesses attended the ceremonies. Red, white, and blue decorations fluttered everywhere Miss Gretchen Purple, the eleven—year-old daughter of W.F. Purple, Stehekin, broke a bottle of wine on the bow. However, the steamer got stuck going down the ways. The Stehekin came to the rescue and tried to pull her off; but the rope broke. That ended the day's ceremonies. Next morning, the Swan succeeded in getting the Lady of the Lake on the lake.

The characteristics of the boat show that she was the largest vessel yet to sail Lake Chelan:

Length--112 feet
Beam--16 feet
Drew about 6 feet of water.
Triple engine of 250 hp.
Five-foot screw propeller, 300 revolutions per minute.
Pipe boilers.
Cabin and freight room forward of the engine and boilers.
Ladies' cabin aft.
At first, only one deck. Second to be added later.
Red hull, green waterline, white superstructure Cost, $8,000.

The Lady of the Lake made its first trip up the lake--to Moore's--on September 23, 1900. It too came under the control of the Lake Chelan Navigation Company by 1904. [28]

Other boats on Lake Chelan about the turn of the century included the Flyer (1901), the Chechochko (1903), the Vixen (by 1904), and the Belle of Chelan, a stern-wheeler (1908). Robert Bird of Stehekin has in addition come across the following names of boats on Lake Chelan over the years: Jerome, Comanche, Liberty, and the Kitten. The Liberty sank near Stehekin but without a loss of life. The Kitten sank one day when a surge of water in the lake (some called it a tidal wave) overwhelmed it. Witnesses suspected that a collapse of some formation in the bottom of the lake caused the unusual motion of the water. [29]

Today, the Lake Chelan Boat Company operates two boats on Lake Chelan: a newer, two—deck Lady of the Lake and a smaller vessel. Visitors to Stehekin or to other points along the lake may make a one-day round trip, stopping at Stehekin for lunch. Plane service to Stehekin is also available. Lake Chelan retains its magnificence to the visitor's eye by either means of transportation.

Evaluation and Recommendations

Beyond doubt, the long search for communications across the North Cascades is an important theme in the history of the area. From the time of the fur traders, through the mining era and the Army's concern about the security of the area, down to the present, men have searched and worked for a satisfactory passage through these mountains. Only now is the long dream being realized. Yet, with the exception of the North Cross—State Highway, which lies in Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and a few short roads in the upper Cascade and Stehekin valleys, the North Cascades park complex has been spared the bulldozer's blade to a remarkable degree.

Evaluation and Recommendations

Skagit Valley

Recommend that at appropriate turnouts along the North Cross-State Highway a modicum of interpretation be carried out noting the long and difficult struggle to improve transportation and communication.

Recommend that the half—tunnels and suspension bridges at the Devil's Corner be made Class VI land and entered on the National Register. Because the modern highway crosses the cliff higher up and because the Devil's Corner trail is difficult of access, the continued preservation of this remarkable survivor of the early efforts to gain access to the upper Skagit is assured. It might be possible, however, to construct a short, safe trail from the turnout at Tunnel No. 1 on the highway that would allow visitors to view the bridges, half-tunnel, and chasm from close at hand. Proper safety precautions would need to be devised. Also, by crossing the Seattle City Light bridge below Gorge Dam and driving a short distance down the far bank of the river (on a presently-abandoned road), one may have an excellent view of this old trail from across the river. If practicable, I recommend that an agreement be reached with Seattle City Light that would allow visitors to drive across this bridge, down to a view point, and that interpretation be carried out at this point.

Inasmuch as the North Cross-State highway also passes through a considerable portion of National Forest land, I recommend that any interpretation, on site or in various media, be coordinated with the U. S. Forest Service and with the state officials concerned with this state highway.


The short-lived railway up the Skagit, and within the Park complex, is directly associated with the history of Seattle City Light. Inasmuch as that organization has preserved Old Number Six at Newhalem and still uses the incline railroad at Diablo, recommend that the Park coordinate any interpretation of the railroad with Seattle City Light and assist the latter in presenting the railroad's history to visitors.

Further recommend that the section of the old railroad bed and trestle at the mouth of Thornton Creek be made Class VI land and entered on the list of Classified Structures, that it be preserved, and interpreted as another chapter in the communications history. At present, an adequate turnout at the point where the railroad bed and the highway meet does not exist. Only one or two cars may park there at a time.

Stehekin Valley—Roads and Trails

As on the Skagit, the attempts to develop adequate roads from the head of Lake Chelan to the mines, and the early efforts to construct a wagon road across Cascade Pass and along the upper Stehekin and Bridge Creek have a long and interesting history.

At present the Stehekin road is closed at Bridge Creek because of an unsafe bridge. One is compelled to hope that the road will continue to end at or near this point. Even to a layman, it is apparent that a road above that point, such as the one that led to Horseshoe Basin until recent times, results in great damage to the ecology and scenic values of the magnificent upper Stehekin.

A review of the history of the area between Cascade Pass and the eastern crest is most impressive: Alexander Ross, 1814; Lieutenant Pierce, 1882; the Cascade Wagon Road--really a trail, ca. 1895; the trails to the mines, from about 1890 on; the road to Horseshoe Basin, 1940s; and the Cascade Crest Trail today (to be mentioned in the next chapter), give this area the longest history of any section of the park.

Many times through the years, Cascade Pass was threatened by developments: roads and railroads. But its record of survival has been remarkable. Recommend that the present trail from the roadhead on the North Fork, Cascade River, across Cascade Pass, down the Stehekin to Bridge Creek, and up Bridge Creek to the park boundary be considered as a historic trail, be classified as Class VI land, and be entered on the National Register Cascade Pass itself is now protected from road development by the legislation that created the park. Recommend that this same protection be extended along the trail eastward to the park boundary.

Also recommend that the section of the old road from the ten-mile post on the Stehekin, up past Coon Lake, and down to Bridge Creek also be classified as Class VI land and entered on the National Register. This road, or trail, is still passable to hikers and horses, and its continued use will undoubtedly be considered by park planners.

Lake Chelan—Shipping

Boats, such as the Stehekin, the Swan, and the first Lady of the Lake, have plied the waters of Lake Chelan for more than eighty years. Many thousands of visitors have traveled the majestic, still-unspoiled lake. They have gazed upon the splendid mountains that grow ever higher and more rugged as one travels up the lake; they have watched with excitement mountain goats clinging to precarious ledges. Today's journey by boat is one of most refreshing and relaxing voyages--over 100 miles round-trip--that the National Parks can offer.

Recommend that the colorful history of boating on Lake Chelan be interpreted in various media at Chelan, aboard today's boats, and at Stehekin.

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Last Updated: 11-Jun-2008