Where Tumwater Canyon opens from Tumwater Mountain and Icicle Ridge into river flats, the broadening valley is flanked by sand hills, sparsely overgrown with pine. Leavenworth originated as a Great Northern Railway Company construction camp, platted and named in 1892 by the Leavenworth Townsite Company. When, in 1925, the Great Northern announced plans to relocate its headquarters to Wenatchee and move its tracks to Chumstick Canyon. A year later, the sawmill closed and the town went into an economic depression. Fruit-packing and storage plants served the orchardists of the vicinity. More than 170 carloads of apples were shipped in 1936. In the early 1960s, townspeople began project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement for Everyone) to bring the town out of its 30-year slump. The committee gave the town a Bavarian theme to promote tourism—it worked. Today, the town offers numerous outdoor activities such as birding, biking, climbing, dining, fishing, float trips, golfing, hiking, horseback riding, hayrides, rafting, shopping, wine tasting and plenty of year-round festivals, including an Oktoberfest in the fall.
Irrigation was practiced even by early agriculturalists in this region. Wooden casks mounted on wagons were used to haul water from the river, truckers charging 25c for a tankfull. Now, extensive irrigation systems developed by the Bureau of Reclamation draw water from the Icicle, Chumstick, and Chiwawa Rivers to supply a wide area of valley orchards. Outside of town, the area is still a large fruit growing and packing district. In addition, there are a couple of areas where you can see Leavenworth’s architectural history.