A Visitor’s Guide to The North Cascades National Park Complex

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The North Cascades National Park Complex comprises of three areas: Ross Lake National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The National Park Service administers all the three areas.

Ross Lake National Recreation Area (NRA)

NRA covers the scenic North Cascades Highway, three drive-up campgrounds, the North Cascades Visitor Center, and the two company towns, three dams, powerhouses, and reservoirs, the Skagit Information Center, and the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. All of them are part of Skagit River Hydroelectric Project and managed by Seattle City Light. Seattle City Light along with National Park Service provides visitor services, education, and guided tour in the national recreation area.

North Cascades National Park (NP)

NP lies northwest and southeast of the Ross Lake National Recreational Area (NRA). It includes about 600,000 acres of area with breathtaking mountain views and 300 gorgeous glaciers. Around 95% of the lands in NP are designated for protection under Wilderness Act. Hikers can access the recreational areas, national forests parklands through 400 miles of well maintained of trails. There are very few motorable roads in the area. More than 200 backcountry camping sites available for visitors.

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

This area is located at the north end of Lake Chelan southeast of North Cascades National Park (NP).

The town of Newhalem comes under Ross Lake National Recreation area. In my previous posts I have given exhaustive information about places in and around Newhalem. Newhalem, though a company town, evidence of native settlement has been found.

The word “Newhalem” itself is a native (Upper Skagit Tribal) word, which means a place to snare goats. The native settlement goes back to 13th century. If you are curious about its history take the nearby Rock Shelter Trail and reach the Newhalem Creek. The rock shelter there is a natural formation and bears testimony to native camping in the area.