Gorge Lake portion of the Skagit River in Washington
Map of the Skagit River drainage basin
|Country||Canada, United States|
|Region||British Columbia, Washington|
|Cities||Newhalem, Marblemount, Rockport, Concrete, Sedro-Woolley, Mount Vernon|
|⁃ location||E. C. Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia|
|⁃ elevation||4,480 ft (1,370 m)|
|Mouth||Skagit forks near Puget Sound|
|Skagit City, Washington|
|10 ft (3.0 m)|
|Length||150 mi (240 km)|
|Basin size||2,656 sq mi (6,880 km2)|
|⁃ location||Mount Vernon, WA, river mile 1 (rkm 1.6)|
|⁃ average||16,530 cu ft/s (468 m3/s)|
|⁃ minimum||3,050 cu ft/s (86 m3/s)|
|⁃ maximum||180,000 cu ft/s (5,100 m3/s)|
|⁃ left||Cascade River, Sauk River|
|⁃ right||Baker River|
|Designated||November 10, 1978|
The Skagit River ( // SKAJ-it) is a river in southwestern British Columbia in Canada and northwestern Washington in the United States, approximately 150 mi (240 km) long. The river and its tributaries drain an area of 1.7 million acres (6900 km2) of the Cascade Range along the northern end of Puget Sound and flows into the sound.
The Skagit watershed is characterized by a temperate, mid-latitude, maritime climate. Temperatures range widely throughout the watershed. Recorded temperatures at Newhalem range from a low of −6 °F (−21 °C) to a high of 109 °F (43 °C), with greater extremes likely in the mountains. The highest temperatures are commonly recorded in July; the lowest are in January.
The Skagit River rises at Allison Pass in the Canadian Cascades of British Columbia. From there it flows northwest along the Crowsnest Highway, which follows the river into Manning Provincial Park. It turns abruptly south where it receives Snass Creek from the right, then enters Skagit Valley Provincial Park at the point where it receives the Sumallo River from the right. It receives the Klesilkwa River from the right, and turns southeast to flow into Ross Lake, where it crosses the Canada–United States border and into Washington state.
Ross Lake is formed by Ross Dam and is approximately 24 miles (39 km) long, winding south through Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Here the river receives Beaver Creek from the right and Ruby Creek from the left. Spilling out of the dam the river enters Diablo Lake, formed by Diablo Dam, and receives Thunder and Colonial creeks from the left, before it enters the third and final reservoir, Gorge Lake, formed by Gorge Dam. All three dams are part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.
Past Gorge Dam, the river is often dry, as its waters have been diverted to generate hydroelectricity. Water is returned to the river as it passes Newhalem, a company town for Seattle City Light. Copper and Bacon creeks, both flowing from North Cascades National Park, merge into the Skagit from the right as it meanders slowly through an agricultural valley, past Marblemount, where the Cascade River joins from the left, and Rockport, where it receives its major tributary, the Sauk River, from the left.
After receiving the Sauk River, the Skagit turns west, flowing past Concrete and receiving the Baker River, its second-largest tributary, from the right. The river continues to flow west, past Sedro-Woolley, Burlington and then Mount Vernon. At the former site of Skagit City, it diverges into two forks, a north and south fork, forming Fir Island. These two forks both empty into Skagit Bay, a branch of Puget Sound.
The Skagit provides spawning habitat for salmon. It is the only large river system in Washington that contains healthy populations of all five native salmon species – chinook, coho, chum, pink, and sockeye – and two species of trout: steelhead and coastal cutthroat.
The river supports one of the largest wintering bald eagle populations in the contiguous United States.The eagles feed on Chum and Coho salmon that have returned to spawn in the Skagit and its tributaries. The eagles arrive in late October or early November and stay into February. The highest number of eagles is usually seen in January. These eagles come from inland Canada and as far away as Alaska and Montana. When the salmon run is plentiful, as many as 600 to 800 eagles are attracted to the river.
Thousands of snow geese winter in the Skagit River estuary. These geese feed on intertidal marsh plants such as bulrush and they are drawn to nearby farmlands where they find leftover potatoes in the fields. Trumpeter swans are drawn to the estuary habitat as well. There can be several hundred swans in the Skagit valley from October to February.
Historically, the Skagit tidal estuary had beaver dams in the myrtle zone. These were overtopped at high tide, but at low tide their ponds nurtured juvenile salmon.
The Skagit River basin provides habitat for a diverse set of animals. For more information about these animals, see List of Wildlife of the Skagit River Basin.
The Skagit River was highly influenced by the repeated advance and retreat of the Puget Lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. Ice and gravel moraines repeatedly blocked the Skagit, causing it to pool into lakes and forcing it to drain south into the future North Fork Stillaguamish River. After the ice retreated the Skagit breached the moraine dam near Concrete, Washington, finding its present course. The Sauk River and Suiattle River continued to drain into the future North Fork Stillaguamish River until eruptions of Glacier Peak choked the rivers with debris, causing the formation of an alluvial fan near present-day Darrington, Washington. The debris forced the two rivers north to join the Skagit.
Above Newhalem, Washington, the Skagit flows through a deep gorge, contrasting strongly with the glacial valley below Newhalem. One of the several theories about this anomaly is that the upper Skagit once drained northward into Canada and the growth and retreat of successive Cordilleran ice flows brought about the reversal. Each advance blocked the river, forcing it to find new routes to the south, in the process carving deep gorges. Eventually, the Skagit gorge was so deep that even after the Cordilleran ice retreated for good, the river continued flowing south instead of north into Canada.
The Skagit watershed is made up of high peaks and low valleys. The highest points in the basin are two volcanoes: Mount Baker, elevation 10,781 feet (3,286 m), and Glacier Peak, elevation 10,541 feet (3,213 m). Most of the basin lies above 2,000 feet (610 m).[ citation needed ] The river completes its course at sea level where it meets the Puget Sound.
The river takes its name from the Skagit tribe, a name used by Europeans and Americans for two distinct Native American peoples, the Upper Skagit and Lower Skagit. Native people have lived along the Skagit for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence indicates that ancestors of the Upper Skagit tribe lived in the area now called Ross Lake National Recreation Area at least 8,000 years ago. They quarried chert from Hozomeen Mountain to make blades, which were used across a wide trading area.
Both tribes traditionally spoke dialects of the Lushootseed language, a branch of the Salishan family. The Upper Skagit tribe occupied the land along the Skagit from what is now Newhalem to the mouth of the river at Puget Sound. The Lower Skagit tribe lived on northern Whidbey Island and have come to be known also as the Whidbey Island Skagit. Archaeological evidence reveals that these peoples collected their food from the natural resources, through fishing, hunting, and gathering.
The upper Skagit area was first described in writing in 1859 by Henry Custer, the American topographer for the US Boundary Commission. With two other American government men and ten locals from the Nooksack and Chilliwack bands, he canoed and portaged from the Canada–United States border down to Ruby Creek, a tributary of the upper Skagit River. The party found no native people inhabiting the Upper Skagit area at the time.
Custer later talked about the area with an elder Samona chief named Chinsoloc who had lived there at one time; he drew a detailed map from memory, which the topographer found to be accurate. (Note: It is unclear what tribe this refers to; there is no local tribe called Samona. The Skeetchestn Indian Band, of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) Nation, were located in the area of present-day Savona, British Columbia. Since the 1860s, they have had a reserve there.) Custer documented this encounter and the accuracy of the chief's map in his Report of Henry Custer, Assistant of Reconnaissances, Made in 1859 over the routes in the Cascades Mountains in the vicinity of the 49th parallel, now in the collection of the National Park Service.
Settlement along the river by European Americans in the late 1800s was inhibited by two ancient logjams that blocked navigation upriver. The settlers first established a village at the tip of the delta which they called Skagit City. The massive logjam was found about 10 miles (16 km) upstream from the mouth of the river. Attempts to remove it began in 1874 by a team of loggers, who salvaged the logs. After three years of work, a 5-acre (20,000 m2) section of the jam broke free and scattered downriver. Soon thereafter the river became navigable. Mount Vernon was founded at the approximate site of this logjam.
In November 1897, the Skagit River flooded severely; in the aftermath as the floodwaters receded, two new logjams formed and blocked navigation. The largest was near the mouth, and filled the river from bank to bank for about 800 yards (730 m). Using a recently built logjam removal boat named Skagit, teams finally cleared this jam in about a month. The years 1909, 1917, and 1921 are the other annual peak discharges of record for the gaging station at Concrete which is at the confluence of the Baker and Skagit Rivers.
In May 2013, a portion of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge collapsed, sending two cars into the water near Mount Vernon, Washington. Traffic in both directions had to be rerouted around the bridge.A temporary span was installed June 19, 2013, and the heavily travelled bridge re-opened to traffic. It carries 71,000 vehicles daily. Contracts are to be let in the fall of 2013 for a permanent span replacement. November 2017 brought significant flooding to the lower river at Mt. Vernon and Lyman.
In 1978, the United States Congress established the Skagit Wild and Scenic River System. The system includes 158.5 miles (255.1 km) of the Skagit and its tributaries — the Sauk, Suiattle, and Cascade rivers. This Wild and Scenic designation is meant to protect and enhance the values that caused it to be listed:
The Skagit Wild and Scenic River System flows through both public and private lands. Fifty percent of the system is in private ownership, 44 percent is National Forest System land, and 6 percent is owned by the state and other agencies. The Skagit Wild and Scenic River is managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
The Skagit River Hydroelectric Project is a group of three major dams, constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, which are a primary source of hydroelectric power for Seattle and other area communities. The Skagit River Railway was constructed by the city of Seattle to transport workers and construction materials for the dams. The river today is a popular destination for whitewater rafting and fly fishing.
Officials warned it could be weeks before things returned to normal along the heavily travelled corridor.
The White River is a white, glacial river in the U.S. state of Washington. It flows about 75 miles (121 km) from its source, the Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier, to join the Puyallup River at Sumner. It defines part of the boundary between King and Pierce counties.
The Clackamas River is an approximately 83-mile (134 km) tributary of the Willamette River in northwestern Oregon, in the United States. Draining an area of about 940 square miles (2,435 km2), the Clackamas flows through mostly forested and rugged mountainous terrain in its upper reaches, and passes agricultural and urban areas in its lower third. The river rises in eastern Marion County, about 55 miles (89 km) east-southeast of Salem. The headwaters are on the slopes of Olallie Butte in the Mount Hood National Forest, about 10 miles (16 km) north of Mount Jefferson, at an elevation of 4,909 feet (1,496 m) in the Cascade Range. The Clackamas flows briefly north and then flows northwest through the mountains, passing through North Fork Reservoir and Estacada. It then emerges from the mountains southeast of Portland. It joins the Willamette near Oregon City and forms the boundary between Oregon City and Gladstone.
The Puyallup River is a river in the U.S. state of Washington. About 45 miles (72 km) long, it is formed by glaciers on the west side of Mount Rainier. It flows generally northwest, emptying into Commencement Bay, part of Puget Sound. The river and its tributaries drain an area of about 948 square miles (2,460 km2) in Pierce County and southern King County.
The Sauk River is a tributary of the Skagit River, approximately 45 miles (72 km) long, in northwestern Washington in the United States. It drains an area of the high Cascade Range in the watershed of Puget Sound north of Seattle. The river is a popular destination for fly fishing. It is a National Wild and Scenic River.
The Stillaguamish River is a river in northwest Washington in the United States. It is mainly composed of two forks, the longer North Fork Stillaguamish and the South Fork Stillaguamish. The two forks join near Arlington. From there the Stillaguamish River proper flows for 22 miles (35 km) to Puget Sound. The river's watershed drains part of the Cascade Range north of Seattle.
Ross Lake is a large reservoir in the North Cascade mountains of northern Washington state, United States, and southwestern British Columbia, Canada. The lake runs approximately north-south, is 23 miles (37 km) long, up to 1.5 miles (2.5 km) wide, and the full reservoir elevation is 1,604 feet above sea level.
Newhalem is a small unincorporated community in northwestern Washington, United States, located in the western foothills of the North Cascades along the Skagit River. It is located within Whatcom County.
The Skykomish River is a Washington river which drains the west side of the Cascade Mountains in the southeast section of Snohomish County and the northeast corner of King County. The river starts with the confluence of the North Fork Skykomish River and South Fork Skykomish River approximately one mile west of Index, then flowing northwesterly towards Puget Sound. It is joined by the Sultan River and the Wallace River at Sultan. It then meets the Snoqualmie River to form the Snohomish River at Monroe. The Snohomish River continues along the river valley eventually dumping into Port Gardner Bay on Possession Sound.
The Skokomish River is a river in Mason County, Washington, United States. It is the largest river flowing into Hood Canal, a western arm of Puget Sound. From its source at the confluence of the North and South Forks the main stem Skokomish River is approximately 9 miles (14 km) long. The longer South Fork Skokomish River is 40 miles (64 km), making the length of the whole river via its longest tributary about 49 miles (79 km). The North Fork Skokomish River is approximately 34 miles (55 km) long. A significant part of the Skokomish River's watershed is within Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park.
Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a US National Recreation Area located in north central Washington just south of the Canada–US border. It is the most accessible part of the North Cascades National Park Complex which also includes North Cascades National Park and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Ross Lake NRA follows the Skagit River corridor from the Canada–US border to the western foothills of the Cascades. The NRA contains a portion of scenic Washington State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, and includes three reservoirs: 12,000-acre (4,900 ha) Ross Lake, 910-acre (370 ha) Diablo Lake, and 210-acre (85 ha) Gorge Lake. These reservoirs make up the Skagit Hydroelectric Project operated by Seattle City Light. Nestled in the "American Alps" the Ross Lake NRA bisects the north and south units of North Cascades National Park.
The Baker River is an approximately 30-mile (48 km), southward-flowing tributary of the Skagit River in northwestern Washington in the United States. It drains an area of the high North Cascades in the watershed of Puget Sound north of Seattle, and east of Mount Baker. With a watershed of approximately 270 square miles (700 km2) in a complex of deep valleys partially inside North Cascades National Park, it is the last major tributary of the Skagit before the larger river reaches its mouth on Skagit Bay. The river flows through Concrete, Washington, near its mouth and has two hydroelectric dams owned by Puget Sound Energy.
The Skagit River Hydroelectric Project is a series of dams with hydroelectric power-generating stations on the Skagit River in northern Washington State. The project is owned and operated by Seattle City Light to provide electric power for the City of Seattle and surrounding communities.
Ross Dam is a 540-foot (160 m)-high, 1,300-foot (400 m)-long concrete thin arch dam across the Skagit River, forming Ross Lake. The dam is in Washington State, while Ross Lake extends 23 miles (37 km) north to British Columbia, Canada. Both dam and reservoir are located in Ross Lake National Recreation Area, is bordered on both sides by Stephen Mather Wilderness and combined with Lake Chelan National Recreation Area they make up North Cascades National Park Complex.
The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe is a federally recognized Native American tribe located in the state of Washington. Before European colonization, the tribe occupied lands along the Skagit River, from as far downstream as present-day Mount Vernon, Washington, and villages going north as far as Newhalem along the Skagit River, as well as lands on the Baker, and the Sauk rivers.
The Suiattle River is a river in the U.S. state of Washington.
The Cascade River is a river in the U.S. state of Washington. It is a tributary of the Skagit River which it joins at the city of Marblemount. It is a National Wild and Scenic River.
Goodell Creek is a tributary of the Skagit River in the U.S. state of Washington.
Lake Shannon is a long, narrow reservoir on the Baker River in Skagit County, Washington in the United States. Formed in the 1920s by the construction of an arch dam just above the town of Concrete, the lake is approximately 7.5 miles (12 km) long and averages 0.6 miles (1 km) wide when full. Located just outside the western boundary of North Cascades National Park in the Mount Baker National Forest, Lake Shannon serves as the lower reservoir for Puget Sound Energy's Baker River Hydroelectric Project.
The Klamath River is a river in southern Oregon and northern California in the United States. This article describes its course.
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