Located at the foothill of North Cascades on the bank of Skagit river in Whatcom County, Newhalem is Nature’s paradise. The small unincorporated community in north-western Washington is flanked by The Ross Lake National Recreation Area from all sides. The place is the dead end inhabited place on Highway number 20. Until 1940 the place was accessible by train only.
Newhalem though a small town can boast of a fascinating history. Its history goest back to 18th century. The word ‘Newhalem’ actually not an English word but is an upper Skagit tribal word, which means a place to snare goats. In 1800s many miners attempted to mind Gold and Silver without much luck. A local named Goodell tried to build a road connecting to the place but unable to do so because the rocks of Newhalem are harder than normal rocks.
In 1917 a company got the permit for the work and developed the small settlement of Newhalem. The first superintendent of the company there resisted the idea to build road for long time because the company did not want to loose control over the place and there were also sabotage concerns. Surprisingly in the early phase of the township the place was a great honeymoon-adventure tourist attraction. Couples had to sleep in gender-segregated barracks.
Importance of the town
Newhalem is known mostly for the tourist attractions surrounding it. But few know that the place has also some importance in literary and movie scenes in America. Well known writer Tobias Wolff lived here when he was kid in the late 1990’s. He calls this isolated paradise as Chinook in his memoire “This Boy’s Life”.
In the movie version of the book “This Boy’s Life”, starred by Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, the place along with nearby settlement Concrete called Concrete. Some portion of 1983 Hollywood film Wargames starring Matthew Broaderic were shot in New Halem.
As said before Newhalem is Nature’s paradise. People flock here, especially in summer, for camping, exploring nature and for boating across Skagit river. The town has a visitors’ center to guide tourists. The river Skagit has been life line for all scpecies of Pacific salmon found in the forest. There is a Salmon-viewing station in Newhalem Campground, which is very near to the town.
There are also several hiking trails in Newhalem such as the River Loop Trail, Rock Shelter Trail and the Trail of Cedars. The forest is inhibited by many grizzly and black bears. The North Cascades Visitor Centre is just a little over half mile walk from the town of Newhalem.
Main attractions around Newhalem are:
- North Cascades National Park
- Ross Lake National Recreation Area
- Newhalem Vistior Center
- Diablo Lake
- Goodell Creek
- North Cascades National Forest
- Skagit River
- Ladder Creek Fall
Facilities and amenities
Newhalem is a small town of around 1000 population and thus lodging and outing facilities are scarce. Newhalem Visitor centre and Newhalem Campground provide basic facilities tourists and visitors. The nearest towns/cities are Concrete, Rockport, Darrington and Marblemount. Guided tours from these places available.