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Burlington to Twisp

  • Distance: 142 miles
  • Routes: SR 20
  • Estimated Driving Time: 2.5 hours

The soil of the lower Skagit River Valley, enriched by alluvial deposits from periodic floods, has been scientifically tilled; and fertile acres that are being intensively farmed may be seen from the road. SR 20 follows the winding river through bottom land, checker-boarded with commercial vegetable gardens, poultry ranches, and dairy farms. In the upper valley are vast stretches of logged-off land, where occasionally an effort was made to carve out a farmstead. Some distance from the highway are substantial stands of timber in which logging is in progress. Rolling foothills become increasingly rugged and wooded as the highway approaches the Cascade Mountains. From Rockport the narrow-gauge railroad winds upward through the rocky canyon of the Skagit River to Diablo Dam. Here the great Skagit River Power developments of Seattle City Light may be seen amid natural grandeur. Ross Dam, completed in 1949, stands 540 feet tall and creates Ross Lake, which extends into British Columbia and rises 1,600 feet above sea level when full.

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A shipping center and local supply point for the fertile Skagit Valley. First settled in 1882 by John P. Millett and William McKay, it was named for Burlington, Vermont, by T. W. Soules. Logging operations in the surrounding forests became so extensive that in 1890 a sawmill was built and the Seattle and Northern extended its rail lines to the town. For a number of years it boomed, until the...

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Carnegie Library

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Burlington Fire and Police Station

Sidetrip: Bryant

Mile: 65

This 52-mile trip features lakes and Skagit Valley communities that began as farming and sawmill towns, including Clearlake, Montborne, McMurray, Bryant, and the biggest, Arlington.

Take the Bryant side trip

The center of a region that has accomplished successfully the transition from large-scale logging and lumbering to farming. Once covered with heavy stands of western red cedar, the land, lying in the valley of the Skagit River, required only clearing and cultivation to be made productive. The area yielded large crops of strawberries, peas, cabbage, kale, and other vegetables; some sections were given over to dairy farms and poultry ranches....

Learn more about Sedro-Woolley

Sidetrip: Northern State Hospital

This campus was built in 1909 as a mental institution with a working farm and other production facilities that made it largely self-sufficient. Now part of it is a park that you can walk through to see a fascinating—and a little unsettling—piece of history. Its square-face buildings once sat amid well-kept gardens and spacious lawns. The institution was partially self-sustaining, with patients cultivating the gardens and caring for the stock...

Take the Northern State Hospital side trip

On the north bank of the Skagit River, it had a large sawmill at one time. In 1880, it was named for B. L. Lyman, first postmaster. In the period of Skagit River steam boating, it was called Williamson’s Landing, for A. R. Williamson, a local settler. Between Lyman and Hamilton the tour ascends along the river valley; the highway separates sharply contrasting country; on one side are stump lands...

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This was the railroad connection for the city of Birdsview, located just to the south. This area was the center of a truck gardening community and shipping point for the local limestone quarry; the road was bordered at points by heavy stands of maple and alder, shipped to city factories for use in the manufacture of furniture. In 1878, Birdsley D. Minkler built a water-powered sawmill there and later a...

Learn more about Birdsview Siding

Mile: 83

The site of the huge Portland Cement Company Plant, the products of which were used in all major construction work in the state. The skeleton of the overhead conveyor system from the Concrete Limestone Quarry, more than a mile west of the city limits, dominated the town; along an endless cable, suspended 100 feet above the highway, large buckets of limestone were sent to the plant, where they automatically emptied...

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Points of Interest
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Henry Thompson Bridge

Mile: 89

An abandoned town on Skagit River below the mouth of the Sauk River in central Skagit County. It was used as a landing for river boats that brought supplies for Monte Cristo and other mining communities in the 1890s. The name is from an Indian band who lived along the river, the Sah-kee-me-hue. Glacier-fed and silt-laden, the Sauk has its headwaters in the Glacier Peak Area far southward. Sauk Mountain...

Learn more about Sauk City

Mile: 94

A community on the north bank of the Skagit River, upstream from the mouth of the Sauk River east of Sedro-Woolley. Albert von Pressentin, a storekeeper at Sauk moved to the site of Rockport to build a hotel in anticipation of the arrival of a rail line. When the railroad arrived in 1901 “...he had a new hotel ready, built on a solid rock foundation which he called the Rockport...

Learn more about Rockport

Mile: 97

The oldest settlement in the region. This hamlet was founded during Civil War days and was once used as a supply base by prospectors who panned the gold-flecked streams of the vicinity. Later a marble quarry was briefly operated at the base of the rock slope to the west, and so the settlement received its name. In the 1890s, more than 1,500 miners and prospectors worked in the area and...

Learn more about Marblemount

Mile: 105

The foothills of the Cascade Range begin to close in on the railroad line, and the tracks and the river are soon boxed in between the shattered cliffs and the lichen-covered canyon walls. Through a fringe of trees, the stream may be glimpsed, its foam-streaked waters clear blue or chill green as the channel deepens. Approaching Thornton Creek, the valley widens slightly, and clumps of gnarled cedars appear among tangles...

Learn more about Thornton Creek

Mile: 117

Headquarters of Seattle City Light construction projects on the Skagit River, this town came into existence when the City of Seattle began development of the power site. The nationally registered historic town is still owned by Seattle City Light and populated entirely by SCL employees that staff the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. Tours of the nearby dams and other water reclamation projects headed by Seattle City Light start at the...

Learn more about Newhalem
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Gorge Power Plant

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Tropical Gardens

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Gorge Creek High

Mile: 121

The Skagit River Hydroelectric Project began in 1918 and ended in 1961 with the partial completion of the Ross Dam. It includes the Gorge, Diablo, and Ross dams and powerhouses, and is affiliated with the smaller Newhalem Creek Hydroelectric Project, which includes the Gorge Power Plant in Newhalem. In 1917 the Seattle Department of Lighting (today Seattle City Light) superintendent James Delmage (J. D.) Ross chose Ruby Creek, near the...

Learn more about Ross Dam

Mile: 134

A mining camp on the upper Methow River in west central Okanogan County. It once marked the end of paved roads in the northwest Methow Valley. It became a jumping-off place for miners who spend their winters “snowed in” in the mines of the high Cascades. The name is the Spanish name for mountain goat. Prior to this, the place was known as Goat Creek. Plenty of mountain goats once...

Learn more about Mazama

Mile: 179

A community at the junction of the Methow and Chewack rivers in west central Okanogan County, it is an entry point to the upper Methow Valley and the highway through North Cascades National Park. It was named in 1890 by Congressman John L. Wilson, for Theodore Winthrop, author of The Canoe and the Saddle, and the Pacific Northwest's first “tourist.” Incorporated in 1924, 1868 placer gold discovered in Slate Creek...

Learn more about Winthrop

Mile: 193

  The town long focused on logging and sawmilling. It was platted as Gloversville on July 30, 1897 by H. C. Glover on whose homestead it was located. On June 29, 1899, the town was re-platted by Amanda B. Burger as Twisp. The name is a modification of the Native American word T-wapsp, the meaning of which is not known. In Twisp the Twisp River, fresh from the Cascades, joins...

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Mile: 202

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