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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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A "first job" still left undone

David G. McIntyre, owner of Skagit Steel & Iron Works of Sedro-Woolley, who volunteered his time from the mid-1920s until his death in 1938 to help kick-start the stalled highway plan

One last push will put over State Road No. 1,
key to a world of new beauty and Wealth

By Harold Lorenzo, Washingtonian Magazine, January 1929
      Draw a line across the state of 'Wash¬ington, east and west, through Sno¬qualmie Pass. You will have equally divid¬ed both the population and taxable wealth of the state. If you have used a road map for your protection the great preponderance of state roads south of your division line will astonish you.
      South of your line will be, by far, the larger percentage of state-built and main¬tained roads. You will find state roads reaching practically every center, while the original road of the state's highway system, State Road No. 1, will be conspicuous by its absence from any and all road maps.
      Thirty years ago a state road system was planned. The logical east-west road was selected and this proposed road was desig¬nated as State Road No. 1 . Then it was forgotten.
      Snoqualmie Pass was located, constructed and is now being improved with the ulti¬mate idea of paving. Stevens Pass was locat¬ed and constructed. It will be put into shape as a first-class highway. State Road No. 1 has never been surveyed.
      There is a reason why this first road of our highway system shall be last.

Where Three Counties Meet
      Look at your map again. Notice that Skagit county extends from the shoreline of Puget Sound to the summit of the Cas¬cades. Joining Skagit on the east are Chelan and Okanogan counties. While all three counties meet at a point on the summit, they are as far apart in their human contact as are Clallam and Asotin counties. It is a long, long hike up the slopes of the mountains to that point where the three counties meet, and few have bad the courage to cross over and be neighborly. So the original road of the state highway system has been only a number for thirty years.
      All this in spite of the fact that it will open up one of the richest agricultural re¬gions in North Central Washington and give the far-famed Methow Valley an outlet for its products: that a highly mineralized region in both Chelan and Okanogan counties will be opened for exploitation and development, that one of the largest virgin forest areas of the state will be tapped; that it will bring the east and west sides of 'Washington far closer together than any other present or logi¬cal route.
      There is a lot of hooey' written and spoken in connection with proposed roads. Possibly that is the reason for some of the roads we have built in this state. Probably the lack of effective propaganda and legisla¬tive influence is responsible for the fact that State Road No. 1 is only a number and a cause that has been espoused by a few earnest state leaders who are endeavoring to make possible this east-west highway by way of the Cascade Pass.

(Cascade Pass map)
      This map from the article shows the proposed Cascade Pass route. Please note: click on the above photo to see a larger version of it that makes the smaller print easier to read.

Considered Logical Route
      The Cascade Pass was thought to be the logical route for the Great Northern Railway. Towns boomed in both Skagit and Whatcom counties in anticipation of the selection of this pass as the route for Mr. Hill's new railway. Eminent engineers, such as J. J. Donovan, believed thoroughly in this route. Thou¬sands of dollars were spent by townsite pro¬moters in locating strategic lines across the summit of the Cascade in attempts to con¬vince Mr. Hill that he would profit by fol¬lowing their advice and making their various townsites the western termini of his new railway.
      These railway surveys were the basis used in laying out the original highway system and as an east-west highway was naturally deemed the most important it was designated as Road No. 1, and laid out to follow the line of the proposed railway route that crossed the summit of the Cascades over Cas¬cade Pass. There were many reasons for the selection of this route. In the first place it was shorter, it tapped virgin agricultural ter¬ritory of tremendous promise. It carried Washington's eastern trade to Washington' western cities, without permitting that traffic to get within competitive reach of Portland. The cost of the proposed highway was less than any other route. It was agreed that it was, by all standards, the logical route. But it was never even surveyed. In fact the com¬plete road has not been located to this day.
      In the meanwhile, Snoqualmie has been opened to connect the Yakima Valley with Western Washington. Stevens Pass will bring the Wenatchee Valley within easy ac¬cess of the west side, and now the Cascade Pass must be located and quickly completed in order that the network of east-west high¬ways tie together the fertile regions of East¬ern Washington with their neighbors west of the mountains.

Thirty-three miles unfinished
      When the full facts relative to the Cascade Pass are understood by the people of this state, it will be rushed to comple¬tion. Public demand will force our legislative bodies to recognize this.
      Strange as it may seem, there re¬mains only thirty-three miles of road to be built to complete State Road No. 1, and this in spite of the fact that the state has spent only a negligible sum on it. Skagit county, at its own expense, has constructed a paved highway from Burlington. where the Pacific Highway is left, to Hamilton, and an excellent gravel road from that point to Marblemount. The state has recently let a contract for the construction of a steel bridge across the Skagit River at Marblemount, and is building approximately six miles of road east of Marblemount. During the past summer engineers of the State Highway Department have located the road on the west side to the summit and report that the route is entirely feasible and that the grade will compare favor¬ably with any trans-state highway in Washington.
      On the cast side a road has already been built from the head of Lake Chelan to the mouth of Bridge Creek — and there remains only 33 miles of road to be completed in order that Washington Road No. 1 may be a reality and an asset, in¬stead of a disgrace to our system of pork-barrel highway location.
      These figures are sig¬nificant:
      Total length Cascade Highway, 1 23 miles; al¬ready constructed, pave¬ment, 36 miles: already constructed, gravel 48 miles; under construc¬tion, gravel, 6 miles. To¬tal, 90 miles.
      Remaining to be built to complete Cascade Highway, 33 miles.

Up to Government
      Much of the uncom¬pleted gap in this project lies in National Forest Reserves. Both Senator Wesley L. Jones and Congress¬man Lin H. Hadley and Sam Hill have pledged their support in se¬curing federal aid for its construc¬tion. Surely Skagit and Chelan counties have contributed more than their share to this develop¬ment that will be beneficial to the entire state. Now it is up to the state and federal governments to complete the job.
      Completion of the small re¬maining portion of the Cascade Highway will make accessible to motorists the grandeur of an un¬excelled natural beauty from the wonderful Puget Sound country on through what Mary Roberts Rinehart fittingly called the "Switzerland of America.'' Beginning on the west with its connection with the Pacific Highway, the Cascade Highway terminates at Stehekin, at the head of Lake Chelan. From the Puget Sound country its course leads first through the fertile Skagit Valley, a happy combination of rare beauty and rich farming area. Following on to Marble- mount, where the Skagit River, now a mountain torrent roaring between majestic cliffs and through heavily timbered valleys, turns north, the Cascade Highway reaches the Cascade River and continues on along this beautiful stream. From Marblemount to the summit of the Cascade Pass, this highway will have an easy grade through some of the grandest mountain scenery in the world. Globe-trotters who have endured the hard-ships of packhorse and hiking boots to follow the proposed route of the Cascade Highway maintain that it will be without a peer. They claim that the far-famed Columbia River Highway does not compare with this route for scenic beauty. Rugged mountain peaks, mighty glaciers. Beautiful waterfalls and sparkling mountain lakes characterize the wild and rugged beauty of this virgin section yet tin marred by the hand of civilization.

Views to be remembered
      Crossing the pass, the highway will extend down the famous Stehekin Valley. where to the beauties of mountain scenery are added the magic wonderland of the Lake Chelan country. Lake Chelan is 55 miles long and lies between precipitous mountains. Its emerald beauty is a peaceful contrast to the jagged mountains surrounding it, and by nature's lovers is heralded as a mountain lake of extraordinary beauty. It is proposed that a ferry service the length of Chelan Lake will take travelers over the Cascade Pass Highway from end to end of this body of water, and be a novel feature that will give tourists a trip of lasting, life-time memory.
      Mt. Baker, rising 10,827 feet from sea to level, is one of the most majestic of all the mountains on the continent. The is Cascade Highway runs for miles with this wonderful peak in view, and affords the a shortest route from the eastern part of the state to Mount. Baker and the Mt. Baker Reserve, which is rapidly developing into one of the most famous national parks in America.
      The Cascade Highway will be completed. The remaining 33 miles of road will be located and construction work will be carried out because earnest groups of leaders on both west and east sides of the summit have organized and arc going to demand a hearing and action. And that brings to mind a rather interesting story that has played an important part in the development of this long dormant State Road No. 1.

Something New in Tours
      Three years ago Frederick W. Graham of the Great Northern Railway was addressing the Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce. He called attention to the fact that although Skagit county physically adjoins the counties of Chelan and Okanogan at the summit of the Cascades. there was no intercommunication between them. The people were strangers to each other. Products grown or manufactured on one side of the mountains were marketed on the other side by rail, but there was no personal relationship. The leading men of Skagit county had never visited Lake Chelan, the Methow Valley or the Okanogan regions of the east side and the Eastern Washington leaders know little of Skagit county.
      He suggested a friendly get -acquainted visit over Cascade Pass and the idea caught the imagination of his audience. The following August a party of representative men from Skagit county motored to Marblemount and proceeded on foot and horseback up the west slope to the summit, where they were met by a party of Chelan and Okanogan leaders who had climbed the east slope to the summit. On the summit of Cascade Pass was laid the foundation of two organizations that have since actively promoted the interests of the Cascade Pass Highway. David G. McIntyre of Sedro-Woolley was elected president of the Cascade Pass Highway Association, and has directed the activities of the west side organization. Allen Wetsel of Twisp is president of the East Side Cascade Pass Association, which is continually pressing for action on this important road project.
      Each year a pilgrimage is made over the Cascade Pass by advocates of the route. East side alternates with west side as host, and the project is kept before the people of Washington.
      The coming Legislature will be asked for substantial support. The request will be backed by a united demand of both Northwestern and North Central Washington counties. Commercial centers on Puget Sound will probably see the trading advantage of this route. The future for the Cascade Pass Highway is decidedly rosy. All it requires is a unity of action.

Keep in mind that the article above was published just months before the stock market crash of October 1929, after which all State funding bets were off. See the introduction to this Cascade Pass series, with links to all the stories about the 80-year process to build a wagon road, which finally became the North Cross-State Highway in 1972, and to more stories about David G. McIntyre and the Goat Trail.

Links, background reading and sources

Story posted on Dec. 23, 2005, last updated Jan. 12, 2008
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This article originally appeared in Issue 31 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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