For those interested in local hiking issues, a potluck dinner is being planned by the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and the Washington Trails Association in which ideas and thoughts will be shared with U.S. Forest Rangers regarding local hiking interests. The dinner is at 6:30pm on March 19th at the Wenatchee Community Center.
The Tumwater Canyon Dam is located just west of Leavenworth in the Tumwater Canyon. It is just east of the popular candy store, The Alps. Thousands of motorists pass this spot daily on highway 2 heading east-west towards Stevens Pass, most never find out that for such a small dam it has quite a bit of history.
Unbelievably, at the time of its construction (1907-1909), the Tumwater Dam was the largest hydroelectric dam west of Niagara Falls.
The hydroelectric portion of the Tumwater Dam closed in 1956 and the powerhouse (located about two miles downstream) was dismantled. The following year, the Tumwater Dam was purchased by the Chelan County PUD.
The original purpose of the Tumwater Dam was to provide electricity to power trains through the 12 mile long old Cascade Tunnel crossing Stevens Pass. Later, when a new tunnel was built, there no longer was a need for this power.
Water was carried the two miles downstream to the powerhouse in a penstock that eventually crossed the Wenatchee River via a bridge. The bridge still stands and is used for hiking purposes. The bridge is unique in that the upper part of the pipe has been cut away and the bottom part leveled so that hikers can cross the river.
The Tumwater Dam seems small and insignificant now, especially compared with the more sizeable dams here in the North Central Washington area, but in its day… it was not only impressive, but much needed.
An outing to the Ancient Lakes area of North Central Washington is a great way to enjoy the scrubland and coulee areas.
Ancient Lakes is located between the city of Quincy and the resort area known as Crescent Bar. To get to the lower parking lot where we started you turn south off of Highway 28 onto White Trail Road. On the first road you come to you need to take a right and head west towards the Columbia River. This road will go for a mile or so through farmland and then start descending downward. The road curves and heads south eventually turning to gravel. After another 2-3 miles you will have come to the parking lot. There is room for about 10 cars and the only facilities are one outhouse.
Bring lots of water as it can be a dry hot time. Expect to be out for 2-3 hours if you’re just hiking into Ancient Lakes, Dusty Lake is also in the vicinity and is located in the next canyon to the south from Ancient Lakes.
The main entrance is clearly marked and you was originally a four wheel drive accessable road years ago, but is now open to hikers and horseback riders. After a quarter mile or so there is a trail that splits off to the left that leads to Ancient Lakes, if you continue on the four wheel drive road you will be taken to Dusty Lake. One thing to note is that once you enter the Ancient Lakes area, there are trails that head off every which way so you can vary your route compared to other very easy. All trails eventually lead either into the canyon or out of the canyon so as long as you head east you’ll eventually get to the lakes.
The first part of the hike will take you through typical Eastern Washington scrubland, you’ll pass what seems to be endless sagebrush and the terrain is very dry. You’ll eventually come across some great rock formations and even a waterfall or two coming over the rim of the canyon wall. The first two lakes sneak up on you and if you’re not looking for them will surprise you a bit. One of the best parts of this hike is the contrast of the dry desert scrubland with the blue lake water.
The furthermost lake has a nice little waterfall flowing into it, a short scramble across some rocks will get you to it. Near this lake is what’s known as the prime camping spot, it sits right between two small lakes and gives convenient access to both.
Once you continue out the other side of the canyon you are given a choice to take a trail that leads out on the floor of the canyon or you can take a trail up onto the canyon wall. The trail up on the canyon wall is not overly strenuous, though it is rockier than down below, and does provide for both a view of Dusty Lake and access to Dusty Lake.
On your way out you can look back and get a view of the area that you just explored. One of the most interesting part of this hike is that the land, other than the existence of trails and a few firepits, is pretty much the same as how all of Eastern Washington looked to settlers back in pioneer times. It’s not hard to imagine what it must’ve been like to come upon this area for the first time.
If you’re interested, check out the rest of our Ancient Lakes photos.