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Mount Vernon to Clinton

  • Distance: 68 miles
  • Routes: SR 20
  • Estimated Driving Time: 1.5 hours

From the fertile lowlands of the rich farming country on the Skagit River Delta, this route leads to the shores of Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands, indented by many inlets. Fantastic carvings of the rocky banks, through the long assault of sea and weather, give these coves an air of austere mystery, and rumor in times past has dubbed them smugglers’ retreats. Back from the shores, the gently rolling slopes of Whidbey Island are marked by patches of woodland, fields of waving grain, and fruitful orchards. A favorable combination of soil and climate has given Whidbey, second largest island in the United States, the reputation of being the garden spot among the islands of Puget Sound. The rich soil, known to agronomists as Ebey Sandy Loam, is said to be unique among soils. In 1894 a wheat yield of 117.5 bushels per acre established a world’s record that still stands. Along the route tall silos and barns, hangar-like in their proportions, attest to the productivity of Whidbey’s agriculture. Bulb raising, seed growing, and berry culture are important branches of farming; but poultry raising and dairying supply more than half of the island’s economic structure.

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The seat of Skagit County, it was named for Washington’s Potomac home. The Skagit River has played an important part in the development of the town; in 1870 fur traders, finding it navigable, established a post here. Prospects of gold along Ruby Creek stimulated the activity of the settlement, and when hopes of striking pay dirt faded many of the prospectors began logging and farming in the Skagit Valley. By...

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Points of Interest
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President Hotel

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Lincoln Theater and Commercial Block

The tour once crossed both Telegraph and Swinomish Sloughs linking the mainland with Fidalgo Island, where the route continues. Telegraph Slough is now filled and reclaimed. Swinomish Slough is now known as Swinomish Channel. The island, separated from the mainland only by shallow sloughs, was named for Salvador Fidalgo, an explorer in one of the Spanish expeditions of 1790-1. A town called Fidalgo flourished briefly in this vicinity until the...

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Sidetrip: Anacortes

Mile: 48

This 10 mile side trip leads out to Anacortes, located on the north end of Fidalgo Island, the city experienced many early-day booms, and now has several substantial industries.

Take the Anacortes side trip

The ghost of a former town at the east end of Deception Pass. First called Deception, then Fidalgo City, two adjacent townsites were platted in 1889, Gibraltar and Fidalgo. To secure land grants offered as a bonus for a railroad construction, trackage of the Anacortes and Fidalgo City Electric Railway was completed in 1891. Two train trips were made - enough to ensure title to the grants—and the tracks torn...

Learn more about Dewey

Mile: 44

The park is notable for the variety of its land and seascapes; along its borders are wave-tossed, and placid, bays. Rugged, fjord-like shores of rock shelve up to deep forests; across Rosario Strait, to the northwest, lie the tumbled forms of the San Juan Islands; to the southwest, across Juan de Fuca Strait, where ocean sunsets flame in the summer sky, are the rugged contours of the Olympic Range. Eastward...

Learn more about Deception Pass State Park

The main highway continues southward along the center of the island, named for Master Joseph Whidbey who, on June 2, 1792, discovered the pass that proved it an island. Four days before finding the passage, Whidbey, a member of Vancouver’s expedition, landed here to make observations. Since Vancouver charted “Whidbey’s Island,” usage has often dropped the “e” from the name, though the original spelling is officially retained. Along the main...

Learn more about Clover Valley

Mile: 37

The largest by far of the island’s three towns, and named for the oak trees on the surrounding prairies, Oak Harbor is a brisk trading center. The semi circular harbor is almost bisected by a narrow sand spit and is southwest of the U.S. Naval air station. The first white settler, Zakarias Taftezon, a Norwegian, came here in 1849. Others soon followed, and John M. Izett, who arrived in 1854...

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Points of Interest
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Bayshore Drive Vista

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Pioneer Way Vista

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Windjammer Park

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Oak Harbor Marina

Mile: 32

Bordered by red-trunked madronas, Madrona Way reaches the head of Penn’s Cove and bears southeasterly. Cranes, standing motionless in the shallows of the sand flats or flapping overhead in ungainly flight, are a common sight. This commodious harbor was important in pioneer days, and the home of many retired seafaring men. It was named by Capt. George Vancouver in 1792 in honor of "a particular friend." The person honored was...

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The city spreads along the south shore of the cove. Once called the Port of Sea Captains for the number of retired mariners who settled here, the town was officially named for the first of them, Captain Thomas Coupe, who took a donation claim here in 1852. Along the water front a small business section, composed mainly of independent, one-story, frame structures, parallels the tidal shore. A scattering of houses...

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Points of Interest
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Town Park

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Captain Thomas Coupe House

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First Methodist Church

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Penn Cove Water Festival

A wayside trading point once dominated by two large white two-story school buildings. This descriptive name became official through use over many years. Modern school buildings have replaced the old but the Tyee Restaurant and Prairie Center Grocery hark back to the historic importance of this crossroads. Whidbey Island’s first car, a Holsman built in 1902 in Chicago, was exhibited in the automobile dealership that once stood at the northeast...

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The single store, marking the entrance to Holmes Harbor, was named by a settler for his boyhood home of Green Bank, Delaware. To the east, across Saratoga Passage, is Camano Island, midway between Whidbey Island and the mainland. Tiny Hackney Island also is in sight. The name was chosen in 1906 by Calvin Phillips of Seattle for his boyhood home in Delaware.

Learn more about Greenbank

Mile: 25

Located near popular salmon-fishing grounds. The settlement was first named Equality by its Socialist founders, who started a co-operative sawmill but dispersed in 1904, after litigation had been started by creditors. In the 1940s, orchards and dairy farms surrounded the town, which consisted of a modern store, a half-dozen residences, and a small sawmill. Nichols Brothers Boat Yards moved onto the old sawmill site in 1964 and is still in...

Learn more about Freeland

Formerly known as Phinney, the place looks across Possession Sound toward the city of Everett on the mainland. It was named for Clinton County, Iowa, by Edward C. Hinman who came from Iowa in 1883 and filed a timber claim. He built a hotel and a steamer landing, supplying steam ships with wood and water. A post office was established in the 1880s two miles from Clinton and was called...

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