Monday, July 23, 2018
We drove north from Burlington, Washington to North Cascades National Park. We followed the Cascades Scenic Highway to the Visitor Center in Newhalem to get our National Parks Passport Book stamped. Most of the time, I forget to bring it, so have to stamp a piece of paper to staple into the book after I return home.
We drove along the Skagit River much of the way. There are three dams on this river, part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project which provides power to the city of Seattle and surrounding communities. We were able to see two of the dams: Diablo and Gorge. They are generally a ways from any viewing station, a frustration for Mark, but I suppose few people are as interested in the structures as he is. We had to dodge traffic a couple of times to get these photos – not very smart on our part.
To reach the Visitor’s Center in Newhalem, it’s necessary to cross a single-lane bridge over the Skagit River. The turquoise river was sparkling from the sunshine, truly a lovely sight – much prettier by far than a dam.
The Skagit River Gorge was formed by glaciers, unlike many others which are formed by erosion from water flow. Therefore, the sides of the bordering mountains look like they go almost straight up.
There are numerous waterfalls along the road and throughout the park, carrying water from the mountaintop glaciers. It’s the abundance of waterfalls that gives the Cascades their name. We’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in the world, yet we never fail to be awed by each one we come upon.
We stopped at Ross Lake, a reservoir that was created by the hydroelectric dam system. It is a popular recreational area, with kayakers and boaters in evidence today. The water looks turquoise thanks to the glaciers in the surrounding mountains. As the glaciers wear down the mountains, the grinding of rock against rock produces a fine silt that is carried into the lake. This silt reacts with light to give the lake its color.
We really wish we could have spent more time here. This was just a taste, enough to whet our appetite for more.