Scenic USA - Washington

Diablo Lake

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Diablo Lake - Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Washington

Photo by Herschel Tucker
Ross Lake inset - Courtesy NPS

   Often described as one of the most scenic highways in the northwest, Washington's Route 20 follows the Skagit River Valley and climbs through one of the wildest national parks in America. The North Cascade National Park, sharing a northern border with Canada, is made up of mostly wilderness land, and highly influenced by the magnificent Cascade Mountain Range. Here, a wall of immense peaks collect vast amounts of snow, contributing to over 300 glaciers in the park.
   One of the unique features of the park is the lack of access roads. Although the territory is covered with 360 miles of hiking trails, only a few roads actually enter the parkland. One of the park roads, the Silver Skagit Road, enters from British Columbia. Ross Lake from Desolation Mountain Trail The other, the rough and rugged Cascades River Road covers a 23 mile route from Marblemount, and heads toward the backcountry and Cascade Pass. Visitors hoping to experience the North Cascades by car must settle for Route 20 as it passes through Ross Lake National Recreation Area. The Ross Lake NRA is viewed as the access point and a connecting link between the north and south units of the national park. One of the must see attractions on this scenic highway is Diablo Lake. From the overlook, Diablo Lake appears with a varied cast, ranging from a beautiful jade-green to a turquoise hue. The water's tint is due to tiny particles of glacial till, sometimes called flour.
   Considering this splendid lake view, it's hard to imagine that the adjacent Ross Lake is considered the most scenic of the Skagit River chain of reservoirs. Beginning in 1918 and continuing for over 50 years, the Seattle City Light Company constructed three huge dams along the Skagit, providing power to the city of Seattle. Although hydroelectric power is considered clean energy, one of the obvious drawbacks is a string of power transmission cables along this scenic route.

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