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Ross Dam during construction
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Dam builders riding Incline lift

From the beginning, visionary J.D. Ross had a dream. The self-taught engineer and Seattle City Light’s second superintendent envisioned a day when the waters of the Skagit River would be harnessed for Seattle by a series of three dams.

The road was not easy -- in fact, there was no road at all. So Seattle City Light built a 22-mile railroad from Rockport to Diablo.

Today, you can stop in Newhalem and climb aboard the cab of Old Number Six, a restored Baldwin steam engine that carried supplies and equipment to build the dams and powerhouses. It also brought employees and tourists to the Skagit until 1954.


In December 1917, Ross received the go-ahead from the federal government and began construction. Seattle City Light dedicated the first Skagit Powerplant, Gorge, in 1924. Construction continued through three more decades with the completion of Diablo (1936) and Ross (1952) powerplants.

Today, these dams remain an important part of the utility’s water storage and generating facilities, producing nearly 20 percent of the electricity used in Seattle.


For more Skagit history on the web, visit the Seattle Municipal Archives site or see www.historylink.org. You may also download and print "Light Years", a short history of Seattle City Light (pdf, 120kb), Walking Tour of Historic Newhalem (pdf 288 kb), and The Romance of City Light (pdf 1315 kb).


Due to heightened security, Seattle City Light has restricted access to certain areas of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.

There is no public access to Ross and Diablo Powerhouses and the Incline Railway. Other seasonal attractions including the Gorge Powerhouse Visitors' Gallery and Ladder Creek Falls are open May through September. The Trail of the Cedars and the Gorge Dam Overlook Trail remain open year-round for public use.




For additional information about Skagit Tours, please email the Skagit Tours Information Center or call (360) 854-2589.

For more information about Boundary Tours, please email SCL_BoundaryTours@seattle.gov or call (509) 446-3083.

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