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Yvonne Prater - Snoqualmie Pass: From Indian Trail to Interstate

Chapter 1 - Indian Trail

p. 13: Both Yakima Pass and Snoqualmie Pass were used by Indians. "Generally, the Indians used Snoqualmie Pass for foot traffic and the higher route over Yakima Pass for traveling on horseback." Snoqualmie Pass had a reputation for deep snows.

Chapter 2 - Two Passes, Three Expeditions

p. 15: By 1853 work was underway on a wagon road through Naches Pass, north of present-day Chinook Pass.

p. 17: Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens gave Captain George McClellan the task of finding a railroad route through the Cascades. In late summer 1853, McClellan scouted Naches Pass but pronounced it impractical for a railroad. McClellan then visited Yakima Pass from the east, initially thinking it was Snoqualmie Pass. He concluded it was also not a suitable route. He never made it to the true Snoqualmie Pass and recommended against it in his report to Stevens, based on what the Indians had told him.

p. 19: Unsatisfied with McClellan's report, Stevens recruited engineer Abiel Tinkham to make a winter crossing of the Cascades. Tinkham crossed Yakima Pass from east to west on snowshoes in January 1854. Meanwhile, Stevens had sent McClellan to explore the Snoqualmie route from the west. McClellan again veered toward Yakima Pass and was turned back short of his goal by a few inches of snow on the trail.

p. 25: In 1856, Major J.H.H. Van Bokkelen made the first recorded crossing of Snoqualmie Pass by a white American party, from west to east.

Chapter 3 - The Early Road

p. 28: Work on a wagon road over Snoqualmie Pass started in 1865. In 1886, King County Commissioners appropriated funds for the project. By 1867 the wagon road was fit for regular travel.

p. 32: Fall rains and spring runoff in 1869-70 degraded the road, rendering it virtually impassable to wagon traffic until 1883. In the meantime, it was announced in 1873 that the Northern Pacific Railroad would be routed to Tacoma instead of Seattle, through the newly discovered Stampede Pass. That diverted resources and attention away from the Snoqualmie route. In 1883 a toll road was proposed over Snoqualmie Pass, backed by Ellensburg cattlemen. That summer the road was improved and tolls were collected through 1887 (p. 35).

p. 38: In 1888 the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed, which tunneled under Stampede Pass. The Snoqualmie wagon road fell from favor and was not officially maintained for several years. On p. 69 the author writes that the Northern Pacific "began building its switchback over Stampede Pass, and later its tunnel under the pass..." This suggests that the Northern Pacific Railroad may have completed a surface route over Stampede Pass before 1888, when the tunnel went through.

p. 39: In 1899, the state legislature approved money to repair the "famous lost wagon road" over Snoqualmie Pass. David Denny supervised the project.

p. 43: The first automobile drove over Snoqualmie Pass in 1905. In 1909, in connection with the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, a transcontinental auto race was run from New York to Seattle, finishing over Snoqualmie Pass. This race publicized the idea of automobile traffic over the pass.

p. 45: Photo of a car driving over the pass along a narrow track between snowbanks, July 1, 1916.

Chapter 4 - One-Lane Road to Superhighway

p. 48: In 1912, the State Highway Commissioner and several county officials decided that Snoqualmie Pass should have a permanent highway. Construction took place during the summers of 1914 and 1915 and on July 1, 1915 the Sunset Highway was dedicated. It was planned with a sixty-foot right of way and a twenty-foot roadbed.

p. 51: Lake Keechelus, a natural lake, was dammed and enlarged in 1914.

p. 55: In 1926 the road was upgraded and rerouted to use the old Milwaukee Railroad right of way west of the pass. During the 1920s the road typically opened in late May.

p. 58: Photo of two men and a car on the snowy roadway during clearing of the pass, April 1921.

p. 59: Photo of a horse team pulling a horseless carriage through the snow, June 27, 1916.

p. 62: Photo of cars parked along the Snoqualmie Pass highway in winter, probably in the 1930s. The caption says that the first year the highway was open all winter was 1931-32.

Chapter 7 - The Milwaukee Railroad

p. 93: In the spring of 1909 the Milwaukee Railroad opened over Snoqualmie Pass. The railroad was initially on the surface (using snowsheds, but no tunnels). The station on the summit was called Laconia. The Northern Pacific Railroad through the Stampede Tunnel had been built in 1887.

p. 98: Except for the severe winter of 1909-1910 (the year the Wellington disaster occurred at Stevens Pass) the Milwaukee Railroad was kept open throughout the winter. The author includes a long description by William Ennis of the struggle to keep the pass clear.

p. 100: Photos of the Milwaukee rotary snowplow train working near Laconia, 1916.

p. 104: The hard winter of 1912-13 clinched plans for a two-mile tunnel under Snoqualmie Pass, from Rockdale to Hyak. Boring was completed in August 1914 and the first train went through the tunnel on January 24, 1915.

Chapter 8 - Personalities of the Pass

p. 117: The author tells the story of Morris Jenkins, who arrived in the mountain town of Easton from Idaho in 1929. Jenkins spent the winter of 1929-30 trapping by himself at a cabin near Mirror Lake. Jenkins recalled (p. 121) returning to his cabin one day to find two sets of ski tracks coming down from the ridge and passing right over the buried cabin. "There was a set of tracks on either side of the stovepipe," Jenkins recalled, "and I know they never even saw it." [The tracks were probably made by Mountaineer skiers following the Snoqualmie-to-Stampede Pass Patrol Race route.]

Chapter 9 - Skiing

p. 129: John Bresko, a native of Cle Elum, served as president of the Cle Elum Ski Club for ten years. Bresko began skiing in 1920. Cle Elum sponsored ski jumping tournaments in the 1920s and early 1930s. The author doesn't specify when the tournaments began, but says they were "expanded in 1923" and ran for the next eleven years. Fans took the trains from Seattle and Yakima to view the events. 1931 was the biggest year, when an estimated 8,000 people attended the tournament. The Depression and the opening of the pass to cars and busses all winter meant that the pass itself became the logical center for ski competition. By 1934 the Cle Elum tournaments came to an end.

p. 130: Newspaper photo of a ski jumper at the Cle Elum jump, about 1931 (from ebgpl-photos).

p. 131: Bresko recalled that in 1924 he could have bought the government land at Snoqualmie Summit for $2.85 an acre. He foresaw the development of the area for winter sports. Due to the lack of transportation at the time, his banker wouldn't advance him the money.

p. 132: The author describes the building of the Mountaineers Snoqualmie Lodge in 1914 and the Meany Ski Hut in 1928. She also mentions the Ski Patrol races of the 1930s. This material can be found in the Mountaineer Annuals.

p. 133a: Photo of Seattle Ski Club Lodge at Snoqualmie Pass in the 1930s. The author writes that the club had owned property at the pass since 1929.

p. 133b: The Milwaukee Railroad operated the Snoqualmie Ski Bowl (later called the Milwaukee Ski Bowl) near the east portal of the Snoqualmie Tunnel at Hyak, starting in the 1930s. Special ski trains were scheduled from Seattle. The area included a big lodge that burned down in 1949.

p. 134a: In the 1930s the Seattle Park Board got a permit from the Forest Service to operate a ski hill at the summit as a municipal park. Around 1939, Seattle citizens complained that the city should not be supporting a park so many miles away and the permit was transferred to Ski Lifts, Incorporated, run by Chauncy Griggs from Tacoma. During World War II, Webb Moffett, one of Griggs's employees, partnered with Rance Morris to buy the ski operations at Mt Rainier, Mt Baker and Snoqualmie Pass for $3500. The Snoqualmie ski area prospered during the war and Moffatt later sold the Mt Rainier and Mt Baker operations. Snoqualmie installed lights for night skiing in 1945. The first chairlift, Thunderbird was built in 1954.

p. 134b: Photo of Snoqualmie Summit Ski Area in 1937, before the slopes were cleared of trees.

p. 138a: Ski schools sponsored by Seattle newspapers provided an important boost to the ski industry in Washington state. The Seattle Times first offered a ski school at the Milwaukee Bowl. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer later started a free ski school with busses. As the programs became too popular for the papers alone to handle, the school districts and other organizations got involved.

p. 138b: Ray Tanner opened Ski Acres in 1948 with a single chair and two rope tows.

p. 140: Photo of Milwaukee Ski Bowl and lodge, late 1930s.

p. 142: Alpental opened during the 1967-68 ski season.

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Last Updated: Fri Jul 4 21:32:17 PST 2003