The tour traverses rock spires, hanging valleys, waterfalls and alpine glaciers, evoking the nickname “North American Alps,” then skirts the emerald waters of Ross Lake before descending into Methow Valley’s high desert. Visitors enjoy remnants of the old west lifestyle and an abundance of outdoor recreation.
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.