Why an island on Diablo Lake is called Monkey Island

I spent the beginning of summer in the North Cascades. I can’t imagine a better way to kick off my favorite season.

Seattle City Light, along with the North Cascades Institute and the National Park Service, offered a sampling of some of the activities on Highway 20.

Along with other journalists, I got a chance to visit the Gorge Powerhouse, take a look at the towns of Newhalem and Diablo and enjoy lunch at the North Cascades Institute.

I’ll write a longer story later, but for now here are a few amusing tidbits from the trip.

J.D. Ross, the second superintendent of Seattle City Light and a huge proponent of hydropower projects on the Skagit River, was quite the character.

He wanted a grand garden at the site of the Gorge powerhouse at Newhalem. Tourists who visited were able to see bananas and bamboo growing in the manicured gardens. In winter, the out-of-place plants were dug up and tucked safely into greenhouses. At night, lights lit up an nearby stream and music was played through the ground on speakers. Ross really wanted people to think electricity was cool. (Those lights, after being put out of service by electrical storms, will be back in service sometime this summer, if all goes as planned.)

While I found the bananas growing in the North Cascades amusing, the best J.D. Ross story is the monkeys. Apparently, the beauty of Diablo Lake (the reservoir created by the Diablo Dam) with its turquoise waters wasn’t enough of a draw for him. So he borrowed monkeys from the zoo and put them on a small island in the lake. The climate was clearly not any good for monkeys, so each night they’d be brought inside so they didn’t freeze. They still call it Monkey Island.

He also put a number of white deer on what was dubbed Deer Island. Deer, it turns out, can swim. And, not surprisingly, some of them found living on a tiny island rather boring. Staff at NCI told me that until a few years ago, they would still see white deer on campus, presumably descendants of the original white deer.

More in Life

Hear new songs from Josh Clauson at Saturday release party

The producer of the Summer Meltdown music festival and Flowmotion band leader has a solo album out.

Get schooled on Texas BBQ at this Monroe restaurant in a bus

Brisket, pulled pork, sausage, chicken and the fixin’s all await you near the Reptile Zoo on U.S. 2.

Spy comedy ’Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ is laugh-out-loud funny

It’s a superficial but energetic sequel to the 2014 film about a clandestine British secret service.

39th annual Arts of the Terrace attracts regional artists

The Mountlake Terrace juried show features paintings, drawings, photography, miniatures and more.

Ben Stiller was born to play title character in ‘Brad’s Status’

Writer-director Mike White’s script has plenty of Brad’s voiceover, so this movie feels like a novel.

See both versions of ‘The Odd Couple’ on Historic Everett stage

The Outcast Players perform Neil Simon’s classic comedy with alternating male and female casts.

The ‘Whimsical Woman’ shares what she learns on the trail

Jennifer Mabus came here from Nevada and Hawaii. She leads hikes and blogs about them.

‘Friend Request’ a horror flick about the dangers of Facebook

Though it’s a little behind the times, Simon Verhoeven’s film about social media is effectively done.

Branch out: ‘Tasting Cider’ recipes call for hard apple cider

Top cider makers share how they like to make hush puppies, bread pudding and the pear-fect cocktail.

Most Read