3 ways to sample the wonders of the North Cascades

In Diablo Lake, there is an island where monkeys once roamed.

J.D. Ross, the second superintendent of Seattle City Light and an enthusiastic proponent of the three dams on the Skagit River, put them there to entertain visitors he hoped would support the power project.

The monkeys are long gone, but gimmicks were never necessary to impress visitors to the North Cascades. Towering peaks, unbelievable turquoise waters and a fascinating cultural and natural history are more than enough incentive to visit. Here are three tours that will give you a good introduction to the region.

Newhalem

Newhalem was a company town started by Seattle City Light in 1919. A must-see is the light show on Ladder Creek Falls. Ladder Creek pours powerfully through a narrow channel that it’s carved out over time. From dusk to midnight, lights focused on the falls rotate through an array of colors: shocking, dramatic red shifts to purple and then a calm, rich blue. The show is on a 15-minute cycle, and it’s mesmerizing.

Also in Newhalem is the North Cascades Visitor Center. Stop there to ask questions or plan the rest of your trip.

Skagit Power Tours

Take a guided shuttle tour and check out the scenery of the North Cascades while seeing how electricity is created. You can go inside the Gorge Powerhouse, where you will be dwarfed by the turbines. Then you’ll visit the city of Diablo below the Diablo Dam. See the Diablo Powerhouse and the incline lift. The lift, no longer operational but still fascinating, once took rail cars one by one sideways up Sourdough Mountain. The tour includes lunch in Diablo. It’s $40, and visitors must be 13 or older. Tours run on Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 14. Call 360-854-2589 to make reservations.

Diablo Lake Boat Tours

On this tour, you’ll get to see Monkey Island for yourself. Even better, you get to see the turquoise waters up close. You’ll start at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, where you’ll eat lunch. Then you’ll take a boat tour up Diablo Lake, getting a one-of-a-kind view of the shore. The tour ends at Ross Dam, which has a bizarre appearance, kind of like a waffle. It was built that way so it could later be made taller, but the plan to increase its height was scrapped, so it remains in its original form. Tours are from 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays through Sept. 15. Tickets are $18-$38. Call 360-854-2589 to make reservations.

Talk to us

More in Life

Irene Koster.
Here are eight amazing azaleas no garden should be without

These deciduous shrubs have few equal for color and fragrance. Curiously, many Northwest gardeners overlook them.

Snohomish artist Cathy Tanasse works on facial proportions on one of her "Memory Project" portraits on Friday, March 19, 2021 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish artist forges connections through art

Cathy Tanasse, a retired Glacier Peak High School art teacher, draws portraits of strangers as gifts.

Carbon-free water power electrifies much of Snohomish County

With increased adoption of electric vehicles, and clean energy mandates, hydropower has never been more important.

Billy Crystal (left) and Tiffany Haddish in "Here Today." (Sony Pictures/Stage 6/TNS)
‘Here Today’ showcases Billy Crystal … but not much else

The star wrote himself a role that showcases his signature charm, but he neglected to give his supporting cast anything to work with.

This oak 19th-century "cave a liqueur" holds four decanters and 16 liqueur glasses. It is decorated with silvered mounts of hunting dogs. The 11-inch-high box sold at New Orleans Auction Galleries for $4,250. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
Don’t confuse the vintage cave a liqueur with a tantalus

Both have decanter bottles, both have drinking glasses, both can have locks — but they’re not the same thing.

Weigela florida "Variegata." (Richie Steffens)
Great Plant Pick: Put Latin name and common name here

What: Weigela florida “Variegata” is an old-fashioned garden shrub that has proven… Continue reading

Make a batch of chocolate chip sable cookies for Mother's Day. (Tulalip Resort Casino)
Celebrate Mom’s special day with special chocolate chip cookies

These chocolate chip sable cookies are great for afternoon tea, and store well in the freezer for future in indulgences.

Chefs Renee Erickson and Bobby Palmquist collect Dungeness crabs. Illustrates FOOD-CHEF (category d), by Shauna James Ahern, special to The Washington Post. Moved Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. (MUST CREDIT: Jim Henkens)
Seattle chef’s cookbook has fresh ideas for Cinco de Mayo

Renee Erickson recipe for shrimp cocktail will transport you to a beach in western Mexico.

Olivia Vanni / The herald 
Keger paints the final touches on his work in Everett.
Everett’s a canvas for nation’s most talented graffiti artists

Graffiti on downtown buildings, painted with the owners’ permission, showcases the street art.

Most Read