Historic Resource Study
North Cascades National Park Service Complex, Washington
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The presence of government in the North Cascades was felt not long after miners and settlers had made the place their home. Even before the turn of the century, the government had a measure of control over this rugged land. Over the years, decisions made by various political entities had a considerable impact on cultural resources in the wilderness. Trails, shelters, lookouts, mines, dams, campgrounds, bridges, and lakes are some of the structures and features which resulted. Perhaps the greatest manipulator of this wilderness both directly and indirectly was the United States Forest Service (USFS), an agency which managed much of the North Cascades for 63 years. But there were other agencies as well. Seattle City Light (SCL) transformed the Skagit valley to suit its hydroelectric needs; the United States Geological Survey (USGS) built camps throughout the backcountry as stations for employees monitoring yearly snow level in the North Cascades; the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) made considerable impact in a short period of time; the Washington State Fish and Game Department built their facilities near the international boundary and in Stehekin. All of these governmental agencies and their various uses of the land changed the appearance of the North Cascades. All of these agencies added another layer to the human history of this place, ultimately enriching the picture of a region commonly regarded as an "untouched wilderness."

Chronology of Federal Stewardship

Before any homesteaders, prospectors, or lumber companies had the opportunity to protest, substantial amounts of forest land in the North Cascades were set aside by the federal government for protection. The alarming rate at which the forests of the eastern seaboard and the midwest had been indiscriminately harvested prompted the government to respond. With the signing of the "Forest Reserve Clause" of 1891, President Benjamin Harrison authorized the establishment of forest reserves throughout the country. More than 17,600,000 acres of public domain were transferred into these reserves for safekeeping.

Unfortunately this measure of protection did not provide for the actual management of the forests and reserves. These areas became, in effect, closed pockets of land. Six years later, by Executive Order of February 22, 1897, an additional 21,000,000 acres of public domain in the northwest were withdrawn with great controversy, and referred to as the "Washington Reserves." Land embracing both slopes of the North Cascades — a total of 3,594,240 acres — became known as the Washington Forest Reserve. Concurrently, the Organic Administration Act was passed, providing guidelines for the management of these large protected areas. Under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, the General Land Office (GLO) appointed individuals for the first time to oversee activity in these remote areas. GLO employees worked in a capacity similar to rangers in the USFS, monitoring and regulating activities such as illegal timber cutting, land fraud, squatter activity, and grazing permits. [1]

The Washington Forest Reserve was the largest of the reserves created by the Presidential Proclamation of February 22, 1897. Its boundaries enclosed an area approximately 5600 square miles in size, taking in land west of Mount Baker and south to the headwaters of Lake Chelan. [2] The GLO knew little of the rugged land it was charged with administering. Although the GLO periodically dispatched surveyors in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to survey land, the work was primarily confined to areas of settlement. Furthermore, historical records indicate that nearly all of the reserve remained unsurveyed and few people other than pioneer settlers or miners traveled into the forest during these early years.

The year 1905 was a landmark for the forest reserves. It was the year President Theodore Roosevelt transferred administration of the reserves from the GLO and Department of the Interior to the Bureau of Forestry in the Department of Agriculture. The United States Forest Service (USFS) was created and headed by a trained professional, a forester named Gifford Pinchot, whose guiding philosophy was "the greatest good for the greatest number." [3] The concept of a forest "ranger" became a working reality in the management of these areas. With land fraud schemes persisting, new reserves being established, and agricultural land opening to settlement for first time in nearly a decade, these rangers regulated and enforced USFS policy in the backwoods year-round, around-the-clock.

By Act of Congress on March 4, 1907, the name "forest reserves" was changed to "national forests." The new (in name only) Washington National Forest (WNF) retained its sizable boundaries only one more year. In 1908 a series of executive orders established four smaller forests from the larger WNF and transferred portions of the land to a fifth, already established national forest. These management decisions resulted in the creation of the Chelan and Washington National Forests, whose common boundary was the summit of the North Cascades, and included land which is now part of the national park.

The Chelan and Washington National Forests were administered by a regional office in Portland, Oregon, which had great decision-making authority. The regional office was augmented by smaller district offices. The Chelan National Forest (CNF) was the largest of the twenty national forests in the Pacific Northwest; the Washington National Forest (WNF) was a close second in size. [4] Districts within today's park boundaries were the Stehekin District in the CNF, with headquarters located in Stehekin; and the Skagit and Glacier Districts in the WNF, headquartered in Marblemount and Glacier respectively. Forest rangers were stationed and lived in these districts, monitoring and assuring the proper and legal use of forest resources. The rangers constructed "on-the-ground forest management camps," otherwise known as ranger stations, which served as home and office. [5] They lived simple, busy lives, and although many rangers were accompanied by wives and families, it was for most an isolated existence.

In 1911, the Chelan National Forest was further divided and a portion became the Okanogan National Forest. Over the course of many years, Stehekin and surrounding lands reaching west to the divide were transferred periodically between these two forests, whose boundaries were continually changing, growing larger or smaller in response to political and administrative demands. To alleviate confusion on the part of the public, the WNF's name was changed in 1924 to the Mount Baker National Forest (MBNF). The MBNF underwent several boundary alterations as well, occasionally transferring and acquiring acreage to and from surrounding forests over the duration of its sixty-year existence.

Within the boundaries of the MBNF, sections of land were sequestered by the USFS and declared special-use areas. Responding to increasing numbers of vacationers and recreationists, the USFS created the Mount Baker Recreation Area in 1926. Embodying nearly 75,000 acres and the namesake peak itself, this area was administered chiefly in the interest of recreation, although the USFS continued to permit logging, mining, and hydroelectric projects. State game preserves, where hunting and firearms were prohibited, were established within the forests during these years. The Mount Baker Game Preserve of 188,000 acres encompassed Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan; the upper Skagit Game Preserve included nearly 74,000 acres of land surrounding Diablo Lake, Ross Dam, and the town of Newhalem. [6]

Among other factors, the trends toward recreation, settlement, and commercial development in the forests led to the creation of the Whatcom Primitive Area in 1931 from USFS lands. Situated in the extreme northern portion of the state between Mount Baker and the Skagit River, the area included 172,800 acres of ". . . abrupt ridges, deep canyons, jagged peaks, high waterfalls, and many glaciers . . ." The eighth such tract of land to be set aside by the USFS, the Whatcom Primitive Area was intended:

. . . to be kept in as near its natural and primitive condition as in [sic] physically and economically possible, in the interests of public education, research, and public recreation. Furthermore, no roads will ever be built into such areas, and only such trails as are necessary for their protection, nor shall any structures ever be built therein other than rude shelters of native or local materials needed for human protection from storms or the elements.

With much of the land unexplored, the USFS carefully advised potential users: "Hardy campers or mountaineers should not venture into this wilderness area except with experienced guides." [7]

Three years later the size of the primitive area was increased and renamed the North Cascade Primitive Area. This newly designated region of approximately 801,000 acres was divided between the MBNF with 434,200 acres and the CNF with 366,800 acres. [8] The USFS had many reasons for designating this land mass as primitive:

The Pacific Northwest needs at lease one large primitive area, which must be of sufficient scope and remoteness to satisfy the most rigid wilderness qualifications. The North Cascades Primitive Area. . .will satisfy the public need both spiritually and physically. It is an area which one may travel as long as he cares, even to months, without retracing his steps. . . . The traveler has a feeling of a boundless region where a trip is in the nature of an expedition of exploration. He may not meet another human being during his entire visit. [9]

Regional Forester C.J. Buck added ". . . there will be no hotels or cabin colonies because this area is for satisfaction of the wholesome human desire to get away from the telephone and the bathtub, to face nature on one s own resources, and to know life with a tang of danger in it." [10]

The area of today's park remained divided between two national forests and the primitive area until 1968, when jurisdiction of the land reverted to the Department of the Interior and a national park and two national recreation areas were created. The new managers of this remote wilderness, the National Park Service, inherited much from the Forest Service, whose 63-year reign in the North Cascades is still clearly evident upon the land.

United States Forest Service Era

"The primary function of all the national forests in the United States . . . is to insure the Nation a permanent wood supply." [11] Wood was but one of four forest "products" of interest to the USFS in its early years. Water, forage, and recreation were equally important resources to be monitored by this federal agency, which ultimately developed an impressive list of achievements in the North Cascades. While ardent conservationists and environmentalists may argue otherwise, positive achievements of the USFS include building roads that opened areas previously accessible only to hikers; constructing lookouts which extended the agency's capability of protecting against forest fires; building and maintaining an extensive network of trails that enabled a broader spectrum of recreationists to enjoy the backwoods; and finally, helping in the monumental task of surveying and mapping the backcountry of the North Cascades. Indeed, the USFS perceived itself as a trustee of the public forests "for the permanent good of the whole people and not for the temporary benefit of individuals or companies." [12] In their efforts to placate recreationists, mining and timber interests, and private land owners within forest boundaries — all of whom were inevitably in conflict with one another — the guiding principles of the USFS reflected "fair play to all." [13]


While the intentions and goals of the USFS were established at a national level, their policies were carried out at a local level by a protective organization of on-site guardians — district forest rangers. In the area of today's park, the Skagit and Stehekin Ranger Districts played the most significant roles in fulfilling USFS policy and shaping the physical landscape. Both districts had numerous rangers over the years, with varying degrees of experience in forest resources and public communications.

The lineage of rangers working in the Skagit District until mid-century begins with Al Conrad who was employed between 1909 and 1915. Conrad was succeeded, by Thomas Thompson, whose 28-year reign in the upper Skagit valley is fondly remembered to this day. Tommy, as he was known, was well-liked by the community and a fine representative of the USFS:

As regards ability to meet Forest users, regardless of how high or low their position, or whether the subject in hand is one requiring strict enforcement of regulations or merely passing attention to a visitor, Mr. Thompson is in a class by himself. His methods of getting results under all circumstances are unexcelled and their fairness is reflected in the unusual esteem in which he is held by those who come in contact with him. [14]

After Thompson's retirement in 1943, Hubert O. Wilson became the Skagit District Ranger until his transfer to Bellingham in 1946. Walfred "Fritz" Moisio succeeded Wilson until 1953 when Frank E. Lewis became the new ranger.

To the east in the Stehekin District the USFS presence began with E.O. (Jack) Blankenship, who arrived in Stehekin in 1910 and worked until 1920. [15] George Wright was his successor until 1926 when he was replaced by R.L. Weeman. During his years of employment, Weeman was credited with "maintaining good relations with his public. While not large, they are correspondingly hard to handle." [16] Horace G. Cooper replaced Weeman in 1935, remaining for only one year. In 1936, Richard P. Bottcher came on for one year, followed by William O. Shambaugh in 1937 and Bob Foote in the 1940s. [17] Foote was the last forest ranger to work in the Stehekin District. With the incorporation of the Stehekin District into the Chelan District there was no longer a need for a ranger station uplake. All protective forces stationed in Stehekin were transferred elsewhere, leaving only buildings behind. [18]

USFS ranger at work, n.d. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)


Ranger stations for the Skagit and Stehekin Districts were located in Marblemount and Stehekin respectively. The site for the Skagit station, known as Backus Ranger Station, was carefully selected from limited good land. After acquiring early settler Frank Backus' homestead, the USFS slowly obtained other tracts of land in the northwest part of section 12 (T35N R10E). By 1907, a sizable amount of land was officially owned by the USFS and used as an administrative site. [19] Ranger Axel Larson built the first structure at Backus two years later. In the spring of 1909, he completed a small, one story, wood frame, hip-roofed house of four rooms for A.R. Conrad, the district's first assigned ranger. [20] Set deep in the woods against a mountain backdrop, the Backus Ranger Station evolved over the years into a substantial complex. By 1915 a barn, chicken house, and woodshed were built on the grounds. Before the close of the same year, a foundation for a new barn was in place. [21]

Entry gate at Backus Ranger Station in Marblemount, ca. 1909. (Thompson Collection, Washtucna, Washington)

The first structure built at Backus Ranger Station, used as a residence and office, pre-1916. (Thompson Collection, Washtucna, Washington)

A USFS supervisor's inspection report of 1921 discussed the permanent improvements at the Backus Ranger Station:

The land is well cultivated and since Thompson was raised on a farm the proper rotation of crops is planned to get the best results. The fences are well kept, and all small outhouses kept repaired. The location of the station for accessibility, surroundings, water supply, pasturage, etc. is the best that could be secured . . . The entire tract has been cleared. Most of the stumps have been removed. . . . All complete buildings are kept neat and clean. The grounds surrounding are always in good shape . . . The barn is big, well arranged and always kept clean and repaired. One room is partitioned off for the express purpose of storing fire tools and supplies. [22]

By 1926 the first residence was replaced by a gable-roofed wood frame house of similar proportions, and an identical structure to serve as an office was built (ca. 1929) adjacent to the residence. [23] In the 1930s, the USFS embarked upon an ambitious building program at the Backus site. With CCC assistance, the USFS was able to increase the capacity and physical plant of the ranger station twofold. A warehouse, shop, garage, and possibly an additional residence were all added to the grounds by the CCC. Carefully sited and constructed of similar materials and design, the new structures gave Backus the cohesiveness and definition of a complex. The station appears different today: while a few buildings remain intact, others have been removed or altered, and new infill structures lack the architectural distinction of their predecessors.

The front yard and entrance gate to the USFS ranger's residence at Backus Ranger Station, July 1942. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley, Washington photo file)

Second office at Backus Ranger Station built ca. 1933. Structure to right of office, remains on the complex today. (Thompson Collection, Washtucna, Washington, 1942)

Gas and oil house at Backus Ranger Station built ca. 1933. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley, Washington photo file, 1942)

The barn at Backus Ranger Station, July, 1942. This structure was sold and moved off the complex onto private property nearby. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley, Washington photo file)

The Stehekin Ranger Station was neither as large nor as defined as its counterpart to the west. Originally located north of the Field Hotel at the head of Lake Chelan, the ranger station consisted of a log 22' x 22' house (built 1907) and an 18' x 20' barn. This station was destroyed in the late 1920s because of rising lake waters. [24] Although an alternate site had been selected earlier at Rainbow Falls, nothing was ever built there and the primary ranger station was moved instead to the vicinity of the new boat landing. [25] It was known at first as the Purple Point Ranger Station. A substantial wood frame, jerkin-head-roofed structure was built there ca. 1926 as a combination residence and office. A small woodshed was sited behind the main building. Approximately two years later, ca. 1928, a warehouse was built to the southeast which served as a new office and living quarters when needed. A garage and blacksmith shop were contained within the warehouse. Six years later an ell was added, enlarging the warehouse considerably. Concurrent with the construction of the warehouse, a bunkhouse similar in design to the main residence was built up the slope to the east. This building provided seasonal housing for fire crews stationed at Stehekin. [26]

Early winter view of the Stehekin Ranger Station office and residence in Stehekin, Washington, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

A 1935 report on conditions at the ranger station described both the administrative site and its problems:

The old fence line at the Stehekin Ranger Station should be replaced by a good looking fence. The crates and other rubbish behind the bunkhouse at this station should be destroyed. There is also a need for a gas and oil house and a suitable place for storing paint. At the present time these materials are stored in the combination warehouse and office and constitute a fire risk. The office, warehouse and machine shop. . .are all under one roof. It is recommended that a separate building be erected in a suitable place, to be used for the office. The Ranger Station at Stehekin has no barn or horse corral, both of which are quite badly needed. [27]

When the CCC established their temporary camp in Stehekin in the late 1930s, a crew constructed a barn (ca. 1939) and an oil/gas house for the station. Both of these were removed in later years by the USFS. [28] Today, the ranger station residence and woodshed remain intact; the warehouse and bunkhouse are extant but have undergone alterations.

Along with the two primary district ranger stations, the forest service had an additional support system comprised of smaller guard stations. These stations were often built with an eye toward permanence and were strategically sited along important communication and travel routes within the forest. In most cases these sites were manned seasonally or used as way stations or base camps for work operations deep in the backcountry.

In the Stehekin District there were four of these guard stations established over the course of many years, varying in degrees of administrative importance. Upvalley from Lake Chelan, McGregor Flats Ranger Station, just beyond Rainbow Falls, was reserved as an administrative site and ranger station. Shown on a 1922 Washington National Forest Map as a ranger station, by 1926 it had been demoted to an administrative site. [29] Six years later the site was still reserved for USFS use though it is uncertain whether structures were ever constructed on the 10.94 acres. [30] Bullion Flats Ranger Station was established just downvalley from present-day High Bridge. Located in the vicinity of Coon Lake along the old wagon road, this site had a post office for miners in the early years of the twentieth century. [31] By 1913 it had become an official USFS station. [32] By 1926, however, the station had been officially eliminated and the site merely held for administrative purposes. [33] The remnants of an old log cabin west of the NPS Bullion Campground may be the remains of the miner Bullion's cabin or the ranger station itself, never torn down but left to deteriorate. [34]

View of High Bridge Guard Station, February 1935; garage to right, residence in center. Note building shell to left of residence. (FARC-RG 95-Portland)

Approximately ten miles from present-day Stehekin Landing, near the point where Agnes Creek joins the Stehekin River, the USFS selected a flat as the site for a new ranger station. High Bridge Ranger Station was built ca. 1933-34 for use as a backcountry base for USFS employees. Used primarily during the summer months when fire and trail crews scoured the high country, the well-defined site had a 3-room residence, a shop/garage, a barn and corral, and an outhouse. The use of similar materials, the scale, and overall design of the buildings gave the station a cohesive and classic USFS character. Though rarely used by the NPS, the site remains remarkably intact today, appearing much the way it did when first constructed more than a half century ago. [35] Beyond High Bridge, the most remote USFS administrative site was situated at Bridge Creek where it empties into the Stehekin River. For many years, cabins built by miners at this location had served as way stations for USFS employees and others heading into the backcountry. By the 1930s, the USFS decided that Bridge Creek was an appropriate site for a more permanent ranger station. A residence and possibly other structures were built adjacent to Clear Creek, and a barn and corral were erected nearby. [36] Infrequently used, Bridge Creek Ranger Station was eventually abandoned by the USFS. All of the buildings were removed with the exception of the barn, which continued to serve as storage for hay and tack. After the NPS assumed jurisdiction of the land, it stationed a seasonal backcountry ranger at Bridge Creek. Without primary structures, the NPS used one of the remaining mining cabins to house their ranger. The NPS recently removed the last vestige of the USFS ranger station at Bridge Creek when it dismantled the small barn in October 1985.

Present-day view of High Bridge Ranger Station. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984)

The Skagit District, a considerably larger area than the Stehekin District, had nearly a dozen secondary guard stations situated along major drainages. Two of these, Mineral Park and Marble Creek, were located along the Cascade River and outside the boundaries of today's park. Beyond the district station at Backus, the first guard station encountered along the Skagit River was at Bacon Creek. By 1913 a ranger station here was delineated on USFS maps. [37] Although documentation suggests it was still in operation in 1926, by 1931 the station no longer appeared on forest maps. [38] Upstream from Bacon Creek, the USFS established a ranger station near the west bank of Goodell Creek. Undoubtedly this station was also short-lived as it appeared on a 1913 WNF map but not on subsequent forest maps. In 1937 USFS focus shifted upstream to Newhalem. The USFS had tentative plans ". . . to provide for the eventual construction of [a] new ranger station site along the east bank on the lower end of Goodell Creek . . ." [39] This new headquarters station at Newhalem was to replace the Backus Ranger Station. In 1938 the forest supervisor recommended the construction of an office at Newhalem that could provide, at minimum, offices of considerable size, an exhibit space, and two rooms for use as bachelor quarters. [40] Because by this time Seattle City Light owned all of the land in this narrow section of the valley, they selected a "suitable" lot for use by the USFS. These plans never materialized, however, and Backus remained the district's headquarters.

Several miles upstream from Newhalem was Reflector Bar Ranger Station. Now incorporated into present-day Diablo, Reflector Bar was ". . . named for the small reflector shelter built there . . ." It served as one of the early and important stations for USFS personnel heading into the upper Skagit region. [41] A sandy flat along a bend in the river was selected and surveyed for the site in 1907, and two years later a 4-room house was constructed. A split cedar barn (built 1910) and a small storeroom were built shortly thereafter. [42] In 1930 a new house and barn were built by Seattle City Light (SCL) in reparation for land flooded by the construction of Diablo Dam. [43] This second house is believed to be the one standing today at Reflector Bar. [44] A new barn/warehouse was built by SCL to replace other facilities taken over by the company at Diablo. The USFS noted in a memo dated January 21, 1954: "This is a gain and an attractive building." [45] No doubt this is the large barn which stands today to the northeast of the USFS residence.

Early view of Reflector Bar Ranger Station, n.d. (NOCA-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Later view of Reflector Bar Ranger Station. The gable-roofed residence has been replaced by a new hip-roofed structure. (Callahan Collection, Seattle, Washington)

Above Reflector Bar at the confluence of Ruby Creek and the Skagit River, Ruby Guard Station was another early station of considerable importance. Ruby was depicted on a WNF map of 1913 but may well date from an earlier year. A one-room log cabin was built, and 2-1/2 acres were cleared on the 12.8-acre site. [46] Ruby remained a station into the mid-1920s, but by 1931 it was no longer indicated on USFS maps. [47] The site was taken over by SCL and used as the location of a work camp during construction of the dam. [48] Prior to the flooding of the site, all buildings associated with the station and camp were removed. By the early 1940s the USFS had relocated Ruby Creek station farther upstream along what is now Ruby Arm. [49] This station then served as headquarters for fire and trail building crews. [50] Portable buildings used earlier by the Works Progress Administration road crew were brought to the new site. A USFS seasonal crew constructed a pole barn up the slope from the ready-built station. This structure was sited on 10 acres which had been cleared for pasture by SCL in compensation for other USFS pasture lost to flooding. As use of the station diminished, its abandonment became inevitable. Most of the buildings at the station were removed by the USFS in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the NPS dismantling the last outbuilding about 1970. Of all the structures associated with this station, only the Ruby barn remains today. [51]

Historic view of Ruby Barn and outbuilding, n.d. (NOCA-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Ruby Barn is the only extant structure at the former Ruby Guard Station. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984)

Across the river from Big Beaver Creek on Roland Point was the Roland Ranger Station, named for Tommy Rowland, an early upper Skagit settler and prospector. The USFS took over one of the buildings abandoned by Rowland. Believed to be an old tool shed, the structure sat on a flat near the river's edge about a half mile from the main homestead, which was sited up the hill. Rowland also had cleared a field nearby and in the 1930s a USFS crew built a barn in the clearing. [52] Still shown as the Roland Ranger Station on a 1942 Metsker map of Whatcom County, this station no longer stands, as it was inundated by Ross Lake waters by 1947. [53]

Early view of Roland Ranger Station, prior to construction of Ross Dam, n. d. (Thompson Collection, Washtucna, Washington)

Another ranger station was established at Lightning Creek, approximately twelve miles from the international boundary. For many years this site had only a lean-to shelter, until a cabin was built at the mouth of the creek. This cabin may have been built in the early 1940s by a logging company clearing timber in the upper river basin. In 1945 the cabin was placed on a raft in anticipation of rising Skagit waters. [54] The floating cabin is used today seasonally as a summer guard station on Ross Lake. [55]

Upstream from Lightning Creek Ranger Station was Boundary Ranger Station, the final and northernmost outpost administered by the USFS. Situated about eight miles south of the international boundary and across from No Name Creek, Boundary Ranger Station was first surveyed in 1910. Improvements consisted of a 3-acre fenced clearing, log house, barn, and tool house, all constructed by Ranger Joe Ridley. [56] This administrative site was used for many years until it also was flooded by rising Skagit waters.

As boat travel became the most efficient means of patrolling the flooded upper Skagit River—now Ross Lake — the USFS determined that a ranger or "prevention guard" was needed at Ross Dam. With funds from SCL in compensation for the lost Roland Guard Station, the USFS hoped to build a raft with combination boathouse and living quarters for a Ross Lake guard. [57] Fluctuating water levels and a steep shoreline around the lake necessitated a floating station. Construction was deferred nearly ten years as administrative problems were resolved and a site selected. It is generally accepted that the USFS inherited a cabin built earlier by a logging company clearing the basin and instead of building a new structure, the USFS adapted the existing one for use as a floating station. This floating station is still in place at Ross Dam today. Winter drawdown of the lake is considerable and the rafted cabin easily adapts to these changing water levels. Each summer the NPS assigns a seasonal ranger to these quarters. His or her job is to make a boat patrol uplake daily to Hozomeen Campground near the international border, assisting other boaters, campers, and hikers as need be at the numerous camp sites and trailheads along the way . . . [58]


The job of USFS ranger was rarely routine. Their work often changed from one day to the next with weather conditions or other unanticipated events. Of course there was always a seemingly endless stack of paperwork to complete, including special-use permits for trapping cabins, fences, pastures, residences, resorts, telephone line connections, and power production. This time-consuming chore of pencil-pushing was handled in conjunction with primary USFS duties and other tasks required on a periodic basis. Rangers in the North Cascades were known to have assisted with such war efforts as victory gardens and preparation for blackouts, and in the compilation of data for the nationwide census. [59] Sundays and any spare hours in a day were allotted for home or office repairs, gardening, and collecting a winter wood supply. As might be expected, one task requiring seven days a week was the ranger s presence in the community. Dealing with the local personalities, individual needs, customs, and beliefs were continual challenges confronting the forest ranger.

The primary duties of a forest ranger as set forth by USFS programs included timber sales, land surveys, fire protection, and trail and telephone line construction and maintenance. Managing timber sales was a time-consuming task, requiring an initial cruise by a ranger of the proposed stand to estimate the market value of the wood. Once the timber had been cut the ranger returned to the logging site to scale the downed timber, quoting the logging company an accurate price for the wood they had felled. Entries noting the counting and stamping of cords of shingle bolts are frequently found in forest ranger diaries. [60] Homestead surveys were undertaken by rangers who often found themselves in the crucial role of determining a settler's destiny. The forest ranger measured acreage and recorded a homesteader's progress on his/her land. He considered, among other things, the amount of cleared land which had been put to agricultural use and whether the claimant had built a permanent residence on the claimed property. If a forest ranger concluded from his field observations that a settler had not satisfied homesteading law requirements, the individual would be declared a squatter and forced to relinquish all rights and use of the land. In this regard the forest ranger was not always a popular figure.

Another early and major concern of the USFS was fire protection. The threat of fire destroying stands of timber was a legitimate concern in the northwest where logging activity kept pace with an expanding market. Trail systems served as a method of fire control. They offered the most expeditious means of reaching fires in the backcountry. In the North Cascades, forest rangers had inherited a series of well-beaten trails constructed earlier by prospectors and miners. Working with this solid foundation, rangers began to expand the network of trails, opening the region through a concerted effort to protect the forests from fire. Also during this era the USFS constructed a fairly extensive system of telephone lines. Following major established routes, the lines connected stations in the front country with each other and with the backcountry. On the east side of the mountains a telephone line ran from Chelan (55 miles downlake) along the lakeshore to Stehekin in 1907, and reached far upriver into Horseshoe Basin. [61] Auxiliary lines were constructed along smaller though well-traveled drainages. On the west side, residents in the upper Skagit valley got access to the USFS telephone line by paying a small fee. Originating in Marblemount, the telephone line connected rangers to numerous points along the entire upper Skagit drainage. Communication in this remote area was greatly enhanced by this combination of systems. Consequently, the construction and maintenance of trails and telephone lines was an essential duty for forest rangers for many decades.

In addition to trail and telephone networks, lookouts became a critical tool for fire management in the national forests. A ranger in a lookout could stand as sentinel over a vast area of land, detecting fires miles away from the perch high atop a mountain ridge. Prior to the construction of lookout structures, USFS personnel lived in tents below the peak, hiking daily up to their posts. Copper Ridge, overlooking the Chilliwack River drainage; Desolation Peak; and Sourdough Mountain were all used in this fashion. [62] The first lookouts, built in the 1910s, were interesting frame structures capped with observation cupolas. None of these are extant today in the park. During the 1930s, the USFS embarked upon an ambitious lookout construction program taking advantage of New Deal funding and manpower programs such as the CCC. Forty-three lookouts were erected in the Mount Baker National Forest alone. These new lookouts were designed for easy construction and were of standard specifications (USFS blueprint # B-4205, with minor changes, 14' x 14' in dimension). The structures were compact in size and materials could easily be transported by pack horse or manpower. All of the pieces — studs, windows, doors, etc. — were interchangeable, making assembly simpler. [63] Standardization of the lookouts left little room for variation except in the roofline, which was either gabled or hipped. Despite this apparent uniformity, each cabin seemed to have a character of its own. Perhaps it was only the location—and the view from the lookout — which gave this perception.

Lookouts were stocked with most of life's basic comforts. A bunk, stove, table, chairs, cupboards, lanterns, and cooking utensils comprised most of the furnishings. The Osborne firefighter stand was placed in the center of the cabin and a stool with glass insulators on the legs assured safety for the resident during electrical storms. A USFS employee serving as a lookout began the day early, usually at sunrise. Gathering and cutting wood for the stove, replenishing the cabin's water supply, housekeeping, keeping a daily log, and doing trail work did not leave a great deal of free time. [64]

The earliest lookout constructed within the confines of today's park was on Sourdough Mountain, above Diablo along the Skagit River. On July 11, 1916, Ranger Tommy Thompson and Forest Supervisor C.H. Park hiked up the steep slope ". . . to see about establishing a lookout station." [65] An experimental station, possibly a tent only, was completed that same summer on what was considered the most strategic view-point on the Skagit River watershed. [66] Sourdough commanded an excellent view directly up Thunder Creek drainage, a very good view along the upper Skagit nearly to the mouth of Lightning Creek, and a narrow view up Ruby Creek to Granite Creek. [67] A lookout structure was built the following year by Frank Davis, an early settler. Working at his mother's homestead at Cedar Bar, he hand-split cedar and packed the ready-to-assemble materials by horse up Sourdough Mountain. The finished building measured 10' x 10' and had a 6' x 6' cupola attached. Davis' father-in-law, a man named Campbell, served as the first lookout here. Sourdough lookout was retained until the 1930s when the CCC dismantled the original building, and, in 1933, constructed a new one of standard USFS design.

Left: Packing in equipment for the construction of Hidden Lake Lookout, ca. 1930s. (Thompson Collection, Washtucna, Washington) Right: First lookout built atop McGregor Mountain, n.d. (NOCA-Sedro Woolley photo file)

Other lookouts built within and on the boundary of today's park were found on Copper Ridge (1934), Easy Ridge (late 1930s), Bacon Point (a 35' tower lookout built prior to 1934), Roland Point (a tower built in the 1930s), Desolation (1932), and Hidden Lake (1931). [68]

Desolation Lookout, one of four remaining lookouts inside the boundaries of NOCA. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984)

On the east side of the divide there were four lookouts erected within today's park boundaries. The earliest stood atop McGregor Mountain overlooking the lower Stehekin River valley. A tent was pitched at the base of the mountain and used as a station until a 12' x 12' structure with a cupola and 23 large windows was completed in 1926 on the mountain top. [69] Nearby on Goode Ridge, a standard lookout was built in 1938 by the CCC, replacing a tent lookout. [70] Stiletto Peak had a 14' x 14' station built in 1931 and Boulder Butte, high above Stehekin Landing, had a 12' x 12' lookout built ca. 1938. [71]

The lookout system began its decline when aerial surveillance proved less expensive and more reliable than foot patrols. Although the trail system into the backcountry was extensive, fire suppression crews hiking in with heavy packs laden with tools were usually exhausted by the time they reached the flames. Smoke jumping was first introduced in the Chelan National Forest in the late 1930s and became increasingly important in the 1940s. By the following decade, many of the lookouts on the east side of the mountains were used only during periods of high fire danger, and . . . the smokejumper unit has displaced so many protection points that the Forest is manned by a more or less skeleton organization of key protection points." [72] Before the close of the 1950s, many of the abandoned stations were dismantled and removed by the USFS.

Federal legislation passed in 1965 directly affected the fate of the remaining lookouts on public lands. This act opened the way for citizen lawsuits against a federal agency for any injury suffered while on government property. Realizing the potential for hiker injury at lookouts high atop peaks, the USFS proceeded to remove all remaining lookouts no longer in use. [73] By this time, all four lookouts on the east side within today's park boundaries had been destroyed (between 1948 and 1953). On the west side of the divide only four of the seven lookouts remain today — Desolation, Sourdough, Hidden Lake, and Copper Ridge. Bacon Point was destroyed in 1956, Roland Point in 1959, and the collapsed remnants of the Easy Ridge lookout were removed in 1970. [74] Easy Ridge and McGregor Mountain lookout sites have radio repeaters on their crests today, and Copper Ridge lookout is used by the NPS as a summer guard station. Hidden Lake lookout is on the NPS-USFS boundary and neither federal agency officially claims or maintains the structure. The lookout is, however, cared for annually by the Skagit Alpine Club by means of a summer work party. Members and other interested volunteers hike in with supplies and tools to make repairs to the lookout, and replenish fuel and water. The building is open to all and a generous cache of food is left for emergency use.

Forest rangers became increasingly involved with recreation issues in the national forests as public use and demands on recreational resources increased. Recreation was not a major concern for the USFS before the 1930s because of competition from special interest groups representing mining, timber, water, and grazing. But as the agency watched their forest lands become national parks it quickly became a legitimate use and a priority. [75] Before the turn of the century, campers and tourists took the boat up Lake Chelan to Stehekin, enjoying the scenery and fresh mountain air. On the west side, USFS Ranger Tommy Thompson assisted ". . . automobiles loaded with campers . . ." coming into the upper Skagit region by the 1910s, supplying them with maps and directions to good fishing holes. [76] As the number of sportsmen and hikers increased, the USFS began to provide minimal services for these backcountry visitors. Designated campgrounds were established along river and creek trails, and rough lean-tos were built from nearby timber. Abandoned cabins built by miners also served as shelters for the hiker, hunter, and fisherman, but the users needs were changing. The field season of 1916 marked the beginning of a shelter building program on the west side of the mountains. Without a doubt, the construction of these buildings was ". . . a new departure in the work of the Forest Service":

The design of the shelters was made with a definite purpose in view. These shelters are to be used chiefly by travelers, campers and fishermen during the summer vacation season. The object and purpose of building these shelters is to encourage camping on definite areas under such conditions as will provide the necessary sanitary measures to protect the public health, furnish greater comfort and convenience to the traveling public and at the same time minimize the fire danger connected with camping, hunting and fishing on the National Forests. [77]

Built of log poles and cedar shakes, the shelters could accommodate a party of six and were enclosed on three sides, open in the front to face a campfire pit. [78] Following suit on the east side of the divide, the Stehekin District had by 1917 built more than half a dozen shelters scattered along the upper Stehekin River and Bridge Creek. [79]

Top: USFS-design, CCC-built backcountry shelter, located at High Bridge. (Photos by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984) Bottom: Detail of log and shake construction used in shelter. (Photos by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984)

Recreational use of the national forests began to receive serious attention during the New Deal years. [80] The arrival of the CCC meant new manpower in the national forests and this marked a substantial rise in the number of shelters built on USFS lands. Along Lake Chelan and the Stehekin River valley, the CCC constructed log pole and shake shelters at Flick Creek, High Bridge, and Bridge Creek, all of which are used today. [81] It is likely that CCC crews, in conjunction with USFS crews, also assisted in building shelters in the Skagit District. Hikers had access to over a dozen shelters and lean-tos scattered every few miles along the Skagit River, Thunder Creek, and Big Beaver Creek. Cabins such as Middle and Meadow Cabins on Thunder Creek, Deer Lick Cabin on Lightning Creek, Rock Cabin on Fisher Creek, U.S. Cabin on the Chilliwack River, and Gilbert's Cabin on the Cascade River, were used at various times by travelers and sportsmen. [82]

In addition to building campgrounds and shelters, USFS rangers were required to stock the rivers and lakes of the North Cascades with game fish, "making fish grow where none grew before." [83] With the sport fisherman in mind, Ranger Tommy Thompson packed milk cans full of trout fry from the State Department of Game and lead his horse train up Big Beaver and Thunder Creeks to release the fish in those waters. Two decades later, in the 1930s, Thompson and other USFS personnel packed in tens of thousands of fry to Sourdough Lake, Thunder Lake, Pyramid Lake, and McGuire Lakes (Panther Potholes today). [84]

USFS ranger planting fish in Thunder Lake, n.d. (Callahan Collection, Seattle)

Forest Service rangers were periodically called from their regular duties to assist with other important tasks. World Wars I and II brought a degree of change to the national forests. The First World War generally had little direct impact on USFS lands in the North Cascades. The need for lightweight airplanes prompted the heavy logging of spruce in the 1910s, but this occurred in more accessible areas well outside today's park boundaries. The Second World War, however, brought a new market for forest products. The "War Emergency Protection Plan," instituted by 1942, stated that Oregon and Washington would be vital areas in forest fire protection during the war:

These two states contain many important war industries situated in and adjacent to the forest areas, and both states are included in the present defense area proclaimed by the Army.... The war period is bringing about greatly increased activity in the private forests of Oregon and Washington to supply the rapidly mounting demands for wood products. [85]

Materials for the building of pontoon bridges, ships, barracks, and much more were in great demand and the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest could easily meet that demand. To the dismay of conservationists, USFS chief Lyle Watts convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to allow a timber harvest in closed forest areas. As a result of this decision, eleven million board feet of timber were removed from the North Cascades Primitive Area in. 1942. [86]

The USFS was also asked to participate in the defense against possible invasion by the Japanese. Ranger Tommy Thompson spent most of December 12, 1941, at the Backus Ranger Station preparing windows for wartime blackouts. That same month, he canvassed the upper Skagit area registering people between the ages of 18 and 67 to assist with defense work. [87] Although forest rangers were exempt from military service, many other local men were drafted. It was not long before USFS crews were comprised of older men, high school age boys, and women. Most helped by keeping watch at Aircraft Warning System (AWS) stations. These posts were manned 24 hours a day year-round for the purposes of detecting foreign aircraft or incendiary balloons in American skies. Lookouts built earlier for fire protection high on mountain ridges were ideally suited for AWS stations. Desolation, Hidden Lake, Bacon Peak, and Roland Point were all used in this fashion. A post was built at Boundary during this time period as well. [88] Throughout the year, supplies were packed in by USFS crews for the lonely observers keeping vigil over the rugged mountain range.

World War II brought a temporary halt to most recreational activity on USFS lands in the North Cascades. This was in part because of gas and tire rationing and travel restrictions for the general public. In 1946 outdoor recreationists again sought the wilderness of the North Cascades. "All camp ground facilities were filled to capacity during the summer weekends" and "Fishermen reached the upper Skagit in record numbers." [89] USFS personnel seemed to pick up where they had left off, maintaining campgrounds and shelters, replacing older, deteriorated structures, planning new campgrounds, and anticipating future needs.

Other Goverment Agencies

In cooperation with the USFS, other federal and state agencies had a presence in the North Cascades, some more noticeable than others. While they operated independently from the USFS, they were required to secure authorization from the USFS for their various projects and activities. Cooperative agreements and special-use permits were required unless the USFS was directly involved with the activity.

Second only to the USFS in the scale of its projects, Seattle City Light (SCL) came to the upper Skagit River region in the late 1910s and embarked upon an ambitious hydroelectric project on the Skagit River. SCL not only transformed the upper river from a wild, free-flowing watercourse into a tame and predictable series of three lakes, but it also altered the wilderness by introducing foreign elements into a relatively pristine landscape. Employees of SCL left their homes in metropolitan Seattle and relocated to a company town called Newhalem, 14 miles from the hamlet of Marblemount. Less than a decade later a second company town, Diablo, was built to accommodate additional employees on the dam project. Paved streets and sidewalks, electric lights, houses, garages, stores, manicured gardens, and other amenities of civilization were brought in, forever altering the appearance of the Skagit River corridor.

In addition to this new construction, SCL was forced to replace several USFS facilities, buildings, and trails lost to the rising Skagit waters. This work involved reconstructing trails on the east and west sides of the Skagit River at a higher elevation, rebuilding foot and horse bridges across streams draining into the Skagit, and replacing lost pasture lands. [90] For the latter, ten acres of dense forest were cleared, fenced, and seeded in the 1940s on the north side of Ruby Creek, establishing a pasture which remains obvious today. Other land inundated by the damming of the Skagit required the relocation of the USFS guard station at Reflector Bar near Diablo. In compensation, SCL rebuilt the USFS residence and barn on a new site nearby, and these stand today on the highly developed flat of land below Diablo Dam. [91]

The CCC was another government entity which made a noticeable impact in the North Cascades. Born from the despair of a debilitating nationwide depression, the CCC was one of many programs established following the passage of the Emergency Conservation Work Act of 1933. President Roosevelt envisioned a peacetime army of unemployed young men working in forests and parks throughout the United States, learning new skills and completing much-needed conservation work — a "man building as well as forest building" opportunity. [92] Within a few months of the bill's passage, 1300 CCC camps were in place across the country. [93]

Between the years 1933 and 1942 thousands of young men were recruited, tested, and assigned to CCC camps prepared for work. Transportation to the camp site, camp construction, and management were undertaken by the United States Army, while the Departments of Agriculture and Interior selected the camp sites and planned, designed, and supervised all work done by the CCC. The cooperation between these various agencies was a remarkable success, and so was the CCC itself. Not only were men relieved of unemployment, but they were offered new challenges. They enjoyed new experiences such as being away from home, learning to live cooperatively with others, and working in a healthy environment — and they also learned skills. The enrollees were supplied with housing, food, clothing, and a stipend. They were expected to send $25 of their $30 a month salary home to their needy families. The states benefited as did the young men. In Washington State alone, a total of 50 camps employed 73,339 individuals whose work accomplishments included the construction of lookout structures, telephone lines, truck trails and minor roads, tree planting, fighting forest fires, and reducing fire hazards. [94]

CCC camp at Bacon Creek. (Thompson Collection, Washtucna, Washington: photo by Lloyd Seabury, 28 January 1933)

In the environs of the North Cascades, CCC camps were established at Glacier, Bacon Creek, Darrington, Chelan, and 25-Mile Creek on the west shore of Lake Chelan. In the area of today's park, the Skagit camp (#F-13) at Bacon Creek worked on projects in the Skagit Ranger District of the Mount Baker National Forest. Several years later in Stehekin a CCC side camp was established from the main camp at 25-Mile Creek (#F-77). These side or "spike" camps were approved only when travel time to and from the main camp and the work site was excessive. [95] Though short-lived, the Stehekin side camp was a great benefit to the Chelan National Forest.

At the main Skagit camp (established in 1933 with a crew from Illinois), the CCC enlarged the small Backus Ranger Station by constructing a warehouse, a blacksmith shop, garage, oil station, and residences. [96] They cleared land, landscaped the grounds, and painted the structures, all under the supervision of the USFS. Other work in the district included the clearing and grading of the existing Skagit road and Bacon Creek road. A bridge spanning Bacon Creek was built by a 35-man CCC crew in 1933. [97] The CCC built a lookout on Bacon Peak in 1935 and also improved the old puncheon road along the Skagit River, originally built by settlers in the early twentieth century. [98] Unofficial side camps with a total of 18 men were established in 1933 at Reflector Bar, on the Cascade River, and at Crater Mountain, primarily for trail and building maintenance, fence and telephone line construction, and campground development. [99] The main camp was vacated by the winter of 1937, but re-established and active through the summer of that year. In the spring of 1940 the bunkhouses were removed, although a CCC crew did return the following year to complete additional work. [100]

Construction at Backus Ranger Station in Marblemount by CCC crews, 1933. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley, Washington photo file)

Operating somewhat later than its counterpart in the Skagit district, the CCC side camp in Stehekin was activated in the late 1930s, drawing 16-20 men from the 25-Mile Creek camp situated downlake. A 1939 inspection report of the camp noted: "This camp is considerably below the minimum standard for side camps and cannot be brought up to standard in its present location by reason of the topography and limited space." Living quarters were indeed spare: four 16' x 16' pyramid tents, "all in poor condition," and two 12' x 18' "out-dated portable bunk houses." [101] Despite the uncomfortable living conditions, the Stehekin CCC crew accomplished a great deal. Three sturdy log shelters standing today were constructed for recreational purposes at Bridge Creek, High Bridge, and Flick Creek. [102] In 1937, a CCC crew built a new hay barn and horse corral at the USFS Purple Point Ranger Station. [103] The following year, a two-man CCC crew constructed a lookout on Goode Ridge. [104] Trails, telephone lines, and bridges in the backcountry were also improved, upgraded, and rebuilt by these hard working young men. [105]

Top: CCC crew building bridge over Bacon Creek, 1933. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley, Washington photo file) Bottom: View of recently completed Skagit Truck Trail above Bacon Creek, 1937. (USFS-Mt. Baker-Sedro Woolley, Washington photo file)

To supplement the CCC, the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act established the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935. This program continued to provide relief to the distressed nation by employing workers on public projects between 1935 and 1943. In the North Cascades, Whatcom County established a WPA construction camp on Ruby Creek for the purpose of building a road. The Ruby Creek road was to be a mine-to-market road connecting Hart's Pass road with Slate Creek road. Portable buildings including a barn, cookhouse, and a bunkhouse, were brought from the abandoned Bacon Creek CCC camp. That summer four miles of road were completed and then, possibly because of a lack of government funds, all work ceased on the project. The buildings passed to USFS ownership, eventually fell into disrepair, and were removed. The rising waters of Ross Lake flooded a section of the four-mile road but more than two miles remain intact along the north side of Ruby Creek. Of the former camp itself, only the Ruby barn remains to mark the site. [106]

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) was active in the North Cascades in the first decade of the twentieth century, but its presence was less obvious. For the purposes of recording changing water levels and predicting spring run-off from the mountains, the USGS maintained stream-gauging stations along rivers and snow survey courses in the high country. Although short-lived, gauging stations were sited along the Skagit River at Reflector Bar (until 1914), Stetattle Creek (1914-1916), at Marblemount (1908-1914), and on the upper Cascade River (1909-1913). [107] The snow survey courses outlasted the gauging stations and can still be found today deep in the backcountry of the national park. These courses were designed to measure snow depth and calculate the amount of water run-off draining into the lower valley. As might be expected, SCL was equally interested in these measurements and in how the amount of water would affect power generation. Consequently, SCL aided the USGS in the financing and upkeep of their small cabins, strategically sited along a predetermined snow course.

Between 1943, when the first cabins were built, and the late 1950s, when replacement cabins were erected, the USGS maintained cabins along several waterways, including lower, middle, and upper Thunder Creek; near the mouth of Big Beaver Creek; near Ridley Lake, along Freezeout Creek and Devil's Creek; on the north side of Ruby Creek near Panther Creek; on the east side of Lightning Creek near Starvation Camp; and on the southeast side of Diablo reservoir. [108] The earliest cabins were log structures, later replaced by pre-cut lumber and metal frame cabins of standard design and size (8' x 10'). All had wood stoves inside for cooking and heating. Each fall the cabins were stocked with food, blankets, wood, and other emergency supplies in preparation for winter use. Traveling on snowshoes, USGS employees traced the snow course by following small metal reflectors fastened on trees. The cabins were placed within a day's walk from each another, and the snow measure ladders were sited in open areas near the cabins. Once the snow depth was measured and recorded the surveyor could relax in the relative comfort of the cabin, remaining overnight before continuing on the established snow course the next day. Only a few of these cabins can be found today in the backcountry. Others have been removed for lack of use or destroyed by snow slides. Within the boundaries of the national park, pre-fabricated USGS cabins dating from the 1950s remain on or near Beaver Pass, Thunder Creek (near Meadow Cabins), Ruby Creek, and Ridley Lake. Deer Lick Cabin, located on Lightning Creek not far from the Three Fools Creek junction, was also used by the USGS for backcountry work. Another structure used as a shelter for snow survey work was Fireweed Cabin, located along upper Bridge Creek on the eastern slope of the North Cascades. Originally built ca. 1927 by Washington Water Power Company, the 10' x 12' log cabin was rebuilt in the 1950s by the Chelan County Public Utilities District (PUD). [109] In 1969, the PUD requested that the National Park Service cancel the special-use permit, and relinquished responsibility for the building. Since that time, the simple log structure has been used seasonally by the NPS as a backcountry patrol cabin.

Deer Lick Cabin along Lightning Creek trail as it appears today. Built ca. 1920s. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984)

Washington State's Fish and Game Department has had a role, albeit minor, in the shaping of the North Cascadian wilderness. In 1902 the State Legislature appropriated money for a fish hatchery in Stehekin. Within a year's time a building 24' x 56' in size had been constructed at the head of Lake Chelan, situated northeast of the Field Hotel, between Field's barn and Little Boulder Creek. [110] Of the sixteen other hatcheries located in the state, this one was unique in the type of fish propagated. [111] Hundreds of thousands of fry grown here were distributed throughout the state. [112] When the level of the lake was due to rise because of construction of the Chelan River dam, the hatchery site was threatened and relocated to Bear Trap Springs. By 1926, the hatchery moved again to its final location near Rainbow Falls, across from the Stehekin schoolhouse. [113] A building of log pole construction was erected there and used until the 1930s when the state closed its hatchery operation. [114] Soon after its abandonment by the state, Stehekin valley residents adaptively reused the building as their community center, which it remains today. [115]

Top: Lake Chelan Trout Hatchery in Stehekin, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file: from Hobbie Morehead's album) Bottom: Pole-type dam at Stehekin fish hatchery, n.d. (NOCA-Stehekin photo file)

After a period of nearly two decades the Fish and Game Department reinstated their fish planting program in the Lake Chelan area. In the 1950s thousands of cutthroats were planted in a screened-off area along the lake in an effort to enhance uplake fishing. [116] The Fish and Game Department hired Walt Anderson to construct a cabin for their employees on duty in Stehekin. Well-known for his skills as a builder of log cabins, Anderson completed the rustic structure ca. 1953-54. The cabin, just off the Stehekin valley road approximately two miles from the landing, is still used today by the Fish and Game Department on an intermittent basis. [117]

Fish and Game Cabin in Stehekin valley, built 1949. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984)

On the western slope of the mountains, the Fish and Game Department began stocking remote lakes with fish in the 1930s. Throughout the decade, trout were released primarily in Diablo Lake, providing good fishing grounds for sport fishermen. [118] In conjunction with their work, the department took over use of a log structure known today as the Fish and Game, or Hozomeen Cabin. Though its date of construction is not known, it was referred to as "a new, well-constructed log cabin" in 1948. Located a short distance from the international boundary, it was built by and for the border patrol. About 1948 the cabin was turned over to the USFS, who hoped to use it as an administrative cabin, noting it "would be difficult to move" for use elsewhere. [119] In the 1960s, the USFS gave the Fish and Game Department permission to use the cabin for their employees working in the upper Skagit area. [120] The cabin is still used today seasonally by both the Fish and Game Department and its caretaker of seventeen years, the National Park Service.

Hozomeen Cabin, near Hozomeen campground on upper Ross Lake. Also known as the Fish and Game Cabin. (Photo by G. Luxenberg, NPS, 1984)


The land of the North Cascades region has been under the stewardship of the federal government since the late nineteenth century. For more than six decades the United States Forest Service had jurisdiction over this remote wilderness, administering policies deemed appropriate for lands designated national forests. Through its special-use permit system the USFS allowed many uses of its land by outside interests, both public and private. Hydroelectric production, mining, logging, trapping, roadhouse operations, fish planting, and recreation home building were all activities pursued by individuals, companies, and governmental agencies in the national forests.

The USFS had considerable impact in the North Cascades, building ranger and guard stations throughout the backcountry for administrative purposes. As recreational use of the forests increased, the USFS responded by constructing lean-tos, trail shelters, campgrounds, and trails for tourists and hikers in appropriately designated areas. Many of these structures have since been destroyed. In order to guard forest resources from fire, the USFS embarked upon an ambitious fire protection program which revolved around the construction of lookouts atop mountain peaks and ridges. Only a handful of these special-use buildings are extant today as changes in USFS policies and technological advances in fire protection rendered the structures obsolete.

The USFS retained jurisdiction of this area in the northern Cascade Range from its inception as a government agency in 1905 until the creation of the national park in 1968. Its 63-year administration left much tangible evidence which reflects USFS policies and management ideals in a wilderness area. Stewardship of the public domain is a theme significant in the overall human history of the park and should be interpreted through these remaining cultural resources.

The following resources are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places within the historic theme identified in this chapter:

BEAVER PASS, PERRY CREEK, BRIDGE CREEK, HIGH BRIDGE, AND FLICK CREEK SHELTERS, the only remaining backcountry shelters in the park complex, for their associations with the era of the U.S. Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps in the North Cascades.

COPPER RIDGE, DESOLATION, AND SOURDOUGH LOOKOUTS, the only remaining fire lookouts situated in the park, for their associations with the U.S. Forest Service-era and its fire protection policies in the North Cascades.

DEER LICK CABIN, for its association with the U.S. Geological Survey's snow survey work in the North Cascades, and as an excellent example of square-notched, log cabin construction within the park.

HOZOMEEN CABIN, as an excellent example of saddle-notched log cabin construction within the park.

MARBLEMOUNT RANGER STATION RESIDENCES NO. 9 AND 10, both built in the 1930s, as excellent examples of early USFS-design residential structures.

RUBY BARN, located in a pasture on the north side of Ruby Arm, for its association with the USFS guard station on Ruby Creek. It is also a unique (within the park) example of log pole building construction,.

HIGH BRIDGE RANGER STATION COMPLEX (including the residence, garage, outhouse, barn, and corral), as the only intact ranger station complex of USFS-design remaining in the park.

STEHEKIN RANGER STATION RESIDENCE, as an excellent example of USFS design residential construction from the late 1920s.

Because they do not meet criteria for listing, it is recommended that the following structures and sites not be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places: Diablo Barn and Residence; Marblemount warehouse, shop, and garage; Roland Point Lookout Site; Stehekin Ranger Station shop/firehouse/warehouse, woodshed, and bunkhouse; and the Stehekin Community Center.

Recommend that the following be placed on the area's List of Classified Structures: Lightning Creek Ranger Station, Little Beaver Shelter, Ross Guard, and the WPA Road for their association with government activities, particularly USFS-related ones, in the North Cascades.

The Bridge Creek Barn, eligible for listing in the National Register, has since been dismantled (October 1985).

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Last Updated: 07-Feb-1999