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Bellingham to Artist Point

  • Distance: 59
  • Routes: SR 542
  • Estimated Driving time: 1.5 hours

The tour winds up the valley of the Nooksack River along the Mount Bakery Scenic Byway, through rolling hills dotted with brightly colored farmhouses and big red barns. Cattle graze in the lush meadows of the river flats; higher ground is given over to orchard tracts, poultry ranches, and truck gardens interspersed with small stands of second-growth evergreens. Gradually at first, and then more noticeably, the highway climbs upward, and farms become less and less frequent in the timbered foothills. Small settlements, forest camps, and an occasional mine or quarry are strung along the highway. Dominating the eastern horizon are the snow-crowned dome of Mount Baker and the rugged peaks and ridges surrounding it. Finally the highway winds into the heart of the Nooksack Recreation Area, a flowered alpine meadowland in summer, dotted with glaciers on the higher levels, and a vast snowfield in winter.

Mount Baker scenic byway overlap, established in 1997, The Mount Baker Highway is a well-used corridor providing year-round access to places of solitude and beauty, recreation and relaxation, lodging and rural lifestyles. It enables access to employment and its history is steeped in generations of miners and loggers.

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Port of call 18 miles south of the Canadian Border, industrial and educational center, and distribution point for northwestern Washington. The city borders the broad curve of Bellingham Bay, sweeps back over the level valleys of Whatcom, Squalicum, and Padden creeks, and climbs the slopes of Sehome Hill, which rises practically in the middle of the city. Industrial life was concentrated along the waterfront, where squarely massed warehouses, coal bunkers,...

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Points of Interest
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Eldridge Avenue Historic District

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Broadway Park Historic District

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Cissna Cottages Historic District

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York District

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Downtown Bellingham Historic District

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Sehome Hill Historic District

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South Hill Historic District

Ahead are forested hills, and around lie closely neighboring farms and tracts of orchard. It is possible to see the entire valley, dotted with alder and fir, stretching away to the distant snow-covered mountains. The tour route passes along top edge of south bluff overlooking the valley and farmland along the valley floor, as the route passes along the north side of Squalicum Mountain. Squalicum Creek flows along the valley...

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Mile: 3

An old community on the Nooksack River, platted before the turn of the century. This commercial center still exists, as does a small frame church with steeple at the intersection. E. W. Owen, the first postmaster, gave the town its name in honor of the Deming Land Company, which had large holdings in the area. A Roman Catholic Mission was founded by Father J. B. Boulet in 1886, and in...

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Mile: 14

In 1887 F. B. Hardman founded the small residential community. By the 1940s it was a scattering of houses around a two-story white school-house. Named for Carthage Kendall, a pioneer who homesteaded there in 1884, it was for many years a logging town, but with the cutting of the timber the settlers turned to farming on a limited scale. The quarry nearby brought additional revenue to the settlement.

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Mile: 23

A multicolored cluster of buildings in a hollow on the North Fork of the Nooksack in a wild and rugged region. The settlement, on a branch line of the C.M.ST.P. & P.R.R., relied on logging, truck farming, and quarrying on Boulder Creek. The first post office name of this saw mill and mining town was Hardan. In 1901, the post office was moved and the name changed to Maple Falls....

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Mile: 26

A small town on the North Fork of the Nooksack River, it was named in 1903 for an engineer who surveyed the Sumas extension of Bellingham Bay, and British Columbia Railway. East of the town the winding Nooksack River appears, a glistening thread far below in the valley. The town once had a small lumber mill, around which gathered a few houses. Warnick remains a small residential town, although there...

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Mile: 31

Situated on Glacier Creek, from which it received its name. It is the eastern terminus of the local branch line of the C.M.ST.P.&P. R.R. and an outfitting center for the surrounding region. It was platted and named by Mrs. Jennie Vaughn for nearby Glacier Creek on September 7, 1909.

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Points of Interest
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Glacier Ranger Station

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Sampson Ranch

Mile: 33

This point offers a view of Nooksack Falls from the bridge. The Nooksack Falls Hydroelectric Power Plant was completed in 1906 by Stone and Webster on the North Fork of the Nooksack River on private lands within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Three years earlier, the Whatcom County Railway and Light Company began construction of the 1,500 kilowatt power plant at Nooksack Falls to generate power for an expanding interurban...

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Mile: 40

The tour skirts a deep narrow gorge faced with walls of tawny red rock, then abruptly emerges in a level-floored canyon through which the river winds. A grove of delicate birch trees beside the river relieves the monotonous green of larger timber. In the winter, huge mounds of snow rise above the roadway. The road runs high above the river canyon through ridges and slopes that in the 1940s were...

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Bert Huntoon and nine Whatcom County developers formed the Mount Baker Development Company in 1923. They proposed construction of a luxury lodge at Austin Pass Meadows and the federal government agreed to fund construction of a nine-mile extension from the end of the road at Shuksan to the new hotel. The new highway led to the Mt. Baker Lodge, which opened on July 14, 1927. Each of the 100 guest...

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Mile: 46

Reached via a series of hairpin turns and winds above the canyon. On its ascent the highway offers a panoramic view of snow-crowned peaks and ridges. Far below, deep rocky gorges and green fir-clad slopes stretch into the distance. At Galena Forest Camp, sometimes buried by snow in winter, opens a full view of Mount Shuksan, thrusting a great knife-edged rock 1,000 feet above its main body. Its Native American...

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Known today as the Heather Meadows Visitor Center, it was constructed in 1940 by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers to serve as a ski shelter. Built to support a ski area developed by the Mount Baker Development Company, the 2½-story, masonry and wood frame building originally included a large warming room, waxing and drying room, and sleeping loft. Knotty pine paneling, a soaring cathedral ceiling, and a massive fireplace finished...

Learn more about Austin Pass Warming Hut

This point marks the original location of the tree that was moved. It was preserved by the USFS as an artifact of the early exploration and survey of the region and is available for public viewing during the summer season in the Heather Meadows Visitor Center. The Wild Goose Pass Tree is a historically significant tree which was originally located near Austin Pass off the Lake Ann Trailhead. The tree...

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