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 District brought the largest settlement growth. An 1893 fire burned most of city, but the 1891-built Duck Brand Saloon, survived and is currently used as Winthrop’s town hall.
North of Winthrop, the Methow Valley was a virtual wilderness, highly favored by sportsmen for hunting and fishing; its roads passable only in summer, and most of the terrain is attainable only by pack-trails. Today this is a popular recreation destination. Winthrop is now home to a thriving art scene that draws visitors from all over Washington and states beyond. In honor of its roots as an old west outpost, many of the town’s building facades have been altered to reflect the look of a western ghost town, although several early buildings along the main street still reveal their historic features. On the hill just above town sits the Shafer Historical Museum, which tells the history of early pioneer settlement in the Methow Valley. The museum is comprised of several historic buildings that have either been moved or reconstructed on site, along with a large collection of farming implements, wagon wheels and rusted out tractors.