North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

Luscious green forrests, beautiful blue/green lakes, spectacular snow-capped mountains and lots and lots of waterfalls perfectly sum up the North Cascades National Park in Washington.

The name “North Cascades” is very appropriately as I could not believe the amount of water that comes cascading out of the mountain sides as you drive through the park. You’ll see dozens of them within a few miles, large ones, small ones and everything in-between. In many cases, the road was built so that the water rushes through tunnels and channels built underneath the road. That tells me the water flow is constant, always flowing out of the cracks and crevasses in the mountain and the road was designed so not to disrupt this water flow, instead making sure the water can go where it wants to go but also to avoid road damage or risking being washed away by this constant flow of water.

North Cascades National Park
Creeks and cascades everywhere – Photo by Albert

Another thing you can’t help but notice is the blue/green color of the water in the lakes and rivers. The color is quite intense and sometimes, like when the sun hits it at just the right angle, the color looks almost artificial, like some vandal poured some nasty chemical in the water. But it is all quite natural. It turns out the color is a side effect of grinding of the rock by glaciers. There are some 300 glaciers in the park today, so the grinding still continues. This slow, constant grinding of the rocks by the glacial ice creates this extremely fine “dust”. This stuff is called “Rock Flour” (I’m not making this up!) and ends up it in the water causing this beautiful blue/green hue. This stuff is really fine and can become suspended within the water (i.e. does not settle) giving the water a somewhat cloudy look.
Linda usually just rolls her eyes at, seemingly useless, trivia like this, but I just lap it up. I find it fascinating and over the years my head has become full of details that would probably make me an ace at trivia contests! I could probably also bore the socks off anyone just reciting this stuff! Anyway, I digress, North Cascades National Park is beautiful, serene and very green – it rains a lot there, we know, because it did so when we were here.

North Cascades National Park
Foggy, mysterious mountains – Photo by Linda

The deep canyons with their sheer sides (caused by those glaciers I mentioned earlier, remember?) are perfect for damming and hydro-electric activity and you will see multiple dams along the lakes and river. The unfortunate side-effect of that is that the landscape has way too many electric towers and power lines than I personally would like to see in such a beautiful area. I suppose it works two ways though. The electric companies build roads and infrastructure to access their plants and in return, visitors like us get well-maintained roads and other benefits. We did joke about this a few times as many of the scenic look-outs are useless these days, because the trees have grown and now obscure the beautiful views. The trees and vegetation in the areas under and around the electric towers however are carefully trimmed and manicured. The irony was not lost on us … the trees are trimmed so you can see the man-made structures, but the natural vistas are obscured.

The North Cascades national park is quite unusual in that there are no paved roads whatsoever. The park area itself is actually 93% wilderness, and the wilderness is less accessible than in almost any other national park. Other than going on extensive hikes, all one can really do is drive through the single road that goes East/West through the middle of the park. We stopping at every turn to admire and shoot the scenery and that is beautiful. Too bad it is hard to see more of the park.

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