North Cascades National Park
July 10-13, 2018
Experience the majestic beauty of the North Cascades, while learning about its historic built environment, this summer at the Washington Trust’s Youth Heritage Project (YHP). Join us for a program that will explore the balance between protecting both historic and environmental resources, and the role of our national parks in the field of historic preservation. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience this majestic “crown jewel wilderness” called the North Cascades.
Throughout Youth Heritage Project, students will be asked to develop their own ideas about why preservation matters and what heritage and history mean to them. Participants will experience a variety of activities designed to help them develop their own ideas for what constitutes successful and engaging historic preservation strategies. Tours and experiences during the week will expose students to the history of the area and the balance North Cascades National Park strikes between its natural and cultural resources. Preliminary plans for focus topics include:
Skagit River Hydroelectric Project – Electricity has been harnessed from the Skagit River for nearly 100 years through three developments: Ross, Diablo, and Gorge. Learn about the balance between maintaining historic engineering projects that are still in operation and protecting the wilderness of North Cascades.
Company Towns – Seattle City Light employees still occupy some of the structures in the company towns of Diablo and Newhalem, but many buildings in the National Register-listed district are vacant. Brainstorm ideas about how to manage and reuse these historic resources in a unique situation.
Environmental Stewardship – North Cascades National Park is known for its rugged beauty and wide range of recreational opportunities. Learn about the role of historic places and engage in outdoor learning activities that will range in topics from sustainability and fire ecology to awareness and public outreach.
In addition to exposing students to the benefits of historic preservation, we strive to teach students that the future of any community is the result of deliberate strategies and choices and that they can be a part of shaping their own communities through their own participation and activism.
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A wilderness mountain kingdom
The National Park Service refers to North Cascades National Park as “a wilderness mountain kingdom.” Indigenous people used the land seasonally; 270 archaeological sites trace human presence back nearly 10,000 years. The first non-native settlement of the Upper Skagit River Valley came in 1877 on rumors of gold, but because of rugged terrain and harsh winters, the difficulties of transporting workers, equipment, and ore negated profits. Seattle City Light Superintendent James Ross saw the potential for power production and built three dams along the Skagit: Gorge Dam in 1924 (replaced in 1961), Diablo Dam in 1930 (tallest single-arch dam in the world at the time at 389 ft), and Ross Dam in 1953. The Skagit Project became a popular tourist attraction, and City Light accommodated visitors with special trains, boats, and gardens of exotic plants, trees, and animals.
After decades of political negotiations, the North Cascades National Park Complex was created in 1968. In 1973, the North Cascades Highway was opened, allowing auto travel across the Cascades and completing a project nearly 80 years in the making. Today, the park is popular for a wide range of recreational opportunities, and Seattle City Light offers tours of the still operating hydroelectric project, which still produces about 10% the electricity generated by Seattle City Light. The area is also home to the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center which provides educational programs to help people understand, care for, and enjoy the natural and cultural wonders of the region.