AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #15a -- Seattle, Washington to Glacier Park, Montana
Part 1 - Seattle to Leavenworth
Leavenworth to Ephrata


0.0 SEATTLE King Street Station, 303 S. Jackson Street.  Elevation approximately 20.  Seattle is the busiest seaport in the Pacific Northwest portion of the United States, and the largest city in the state of Washington.  It has long been the gateway to Alaska and the Orient.  Most of Seattle is located between Elliott Bay, an arm of Puget Sound, on the west, and freshwater Lake Washington on the east.  The city was settled in 1851, and was laid out 2 years later as the seat of King County and named for a friendly Indian Chief, Seattle (also called Sealth or See-yat).  The city served primarily as a lumber town until the 1880’s, when the arrival of the railroads stimulated economic expansion.  Trade with Asia began in the 1890’s, and the Yukon gold rush made Seattle an important commercial center.  In 1889, much of the city was destroyed by fire.  Puget Sound was discovered in 1792 by the British explorer George Vancouver, and to this day, remains the southern terminus of the “Inside Passage” to Alaska.

         Much of the city is built on terraces, and much of the commercial sector of town is located on the lower terraces along Puget Sound. In 1962, Seattle was the host city for the World’s Fair, and the Seattle Space Needle has since remained a landmark of the city. The Space Needle is connected to several points in the downtown Seattle area by an operating monorail system.

         We will be traveling through the Puget Sound Lowland between Seattle and Snohomish (see MP 41 below).  The Puget Sound Lowland is underlain by ancient oceanic crust, which consists primarily of olivine- and peridotite-rich rocks, as well as pillow basalts erupted during the Eocene Epoch, from undersea volcanoes.  The Puget Sound Lowland has also been glaciated in more recent geologic time, and the volcanic and sedimentary oceanic crust over which we are traveling has been covered by as much as 3000 ft of glacial sediments, therefore no bedrock is visible along the railroad right-of-way for several miles yet.

         As we leave King Street Station heading north, we immediately pass through a short tunnel which passes underneath a dozen or so downtown blocks.

1        Upon emergence at the north end of the tunnel, you will recognize the Space Needle ahead and to the right. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Also notice the well-known Piers on the left (eastbound) which jut out into Puget Sound. Pier 70 is the largest restored wooden pier in the country, and houses about 40 shops and commercial operations today.  In the past it contained a warehousing center for Oriental spices.

         Puget Sound is named after Peter Puget, a British naval officer who accompanied British explorer George Vancouver to the Pacific Northwest during 1792-1795.  The Sound was created during the Pleistocene Ice Age, as glaciers from the north scoured out the lowland which was likely formed by earlier faulting activity.  This part of the Sound is known as Elliott Bay, named after Midshipman Samuel Elliott, who assisted in surveying the harbor.

3-4    Pass through a U.S. naval reservation.  The Queen Anne District on the right (eastbound) is built on a Pleistocene glacial moraine.

6        Cross Salmon Bay, an inlet of Puget Sound which connects the Sound to Lake Washington, a glacially-scoured inland lake which is a popular recreation area. On the right (eastbound) are the Chittenden Locks, named after U.S. Army Major Hiram Martin Chittenden.  The locks are used for navigation, and also to control the level of Lakes Washington and Union, to the east, and also to prevent the mixing of salt water from Puget Sound with fresh water from the inland lakes.

7        Passing through the suburb of Sunset Hill, the Shilshole Bay Marina is visible on the left (eastbound).  The name Shilshole is from the Duwamish Indian word Cil-col, which means threading or inserting, as a thread through a bead.  The reference was to the Bay’s narrow entrance into Salmon Creek.  Notice the statue of Leif Erickson on the left at the Marina.

         Bainbridge Island is visible on the left (eastbound) in Puget Sound.

8-10  As we round the bend, the landscape on the right (eastbound) has been eroded by post-glacial stream deposits, which have cut downward through the Pleistocene till which blankets most of these highland areas adjacent to Puget Sound.

9.5     Above the tracks on the right (eastbound) is Carkeek Park, home to the Piper Orchard and Pipers Creek.  Piper Orchard is known for its very old apple trees.

11.5   On the right, above the recent stream-eroded ravines, is the Seattle Golf and Country Club.

12.5   Cross a small creek located between glacial morainal ridges

14      Pass through the community of Richmond Beach, most of which is located above the tracks on the right (eastbound).

15      Enter SNOHOMISH County.  This county was named after the Snohomish Indians.  It contains over 60 Cascade Range peaks with altitudes of more than 5000 ft, 8 of which are higher than 7000 ft. The county was formed by the Territorial Legislature on January 14, 1861, from a part of Island County.  On the left (eastbound) is the Point Wells Oil Refinery.

16      Cross Deer Creek and pass through Woodway, which was first called Woodway Park when founded by David Whitcomb, Sr., who bought property there in 1912.  The city was incorporated in 1958.  It was a forested area near the King County line.  It was incorporated February 26, 1958.  Mr. Whitcomb was desirous of country living and developed his community by insisting on deed restrictions of 2 acre minimum parcels with large setbacks.

17.5  EDMONDS station, 211 Railroad Avenue.  Elevation approximately 8.  The city was founded in 1872, and incorporated in 1890. In 1841, the point on which the town was built was named Point Edmund by the Wilkes Expedition.  This evidently was altered to the present name when a post office was established in the 1880’s.  An alternate name source is that of Sen. George Franklin Edmunds, who served Vermont in the U.S. Senate for 21 years.  His name is presumed to have been applied to the town in 1876 by George Brackett, who is credited with having founded the original settlement as a logging camp.

         The city is primarily residential, but some light industry is here.  Located here are Puget Sound College of the Bible (established 1950) and a large pleasure craft harbor.  Adjacent to the AMTRAK station are ferry docks, from which ferries to the town of Kingston, on the Olympic Peninsula, as well as to some of the islands in Puget Sound, can be boarded.  The city is known locally as the “Gem of Puget Sound.”

20      This small cove in Puget Sound is known as Browns Bay.  On the hills above the railroad are more Pleistocene glacial deposits.

21      Pass through Meadowdale.  This town was named by Robert Maltby on April 2, 1904, because of an extensive area which might be converted into a meadow if cleared and grassed.

22     At Norma Beach, cross a couple more small creeks which have eroded through glacial moraines.

23      Picnic Point.  The portion of Puget Sound between here and Everett, which separates Whidbey Island (visible to the west) and the mainland, is known as Possession Sound.  It was named June 4, 1792, by Capt. George Vancouver, on the birthday of King George III of England. On that occasion, Vancouver took formal possession of New Albion, renaming it New Georgia in the King’s honor.

25-27                      As the train continues to hug the coastline of Puget Sound, we will cross several more modern streams and ravines which have cut shallow valleys through older glacial deposits.

28      Pass through Mukilteo.  This town began as a trading center for Indians, and was also the site of the signing of an important 1855 Indian treaty called the Point Elliott Treaty, which allowed white settlers to settle in what was formerly considered Indian territory.  Until 1862, when a post office was established, the place now known as Mukilteo was known as Point Elliott, named after the point of land visible on the left (eastbound).  The present name is from the Indian name for the settlement, Muckl-te-oh, which means “good camping ground.”

29     Pass through the small community of Edgewater.

30      Pass through the small community of Darlington.

32     Approaching Everett, this part of Puget Sound is known as Gardner Bay, which was named after Alan Gardner, one of Capt. George Vancouver’s former commanders.

33      Your train is now bending away from Puget Sound and entering a half-mile long tunnel beneath the city of Everett.  The city of Everett is built on glacial moraine deposits.

34      EVERETT station, 3201 Smith Avenue.  Elevation approximately 59.  Everett is located on Gardner Bay, at the mouth of the Snohomish River. Supported by many forest product industries, the city was named after Everett Colby of New Jersey, the son of Charles L. Colby, who invested in the Everett Land Company in 1890.  Mr. Colby established several of the town’s first industries, and was a member of the syndicate which built the Everett & Monte Cristo Railroad, a former mining railroad.

         Everett today remains a major fishing and lumbering center.  Other major industries include the shipping of aluminum ore and other cargo, tourism, and the manufacture of aircraft and paper products.  The large 11-story Boeing 747/767 assembly plant is located here, and tours are available.  In addition, the city has a community college, a symphony, and a cultural arts center. The city was founded in 1892 as the site of the western terminus of a transcontinental railroad.

         Upon leaving the Everett station, the track which switches off to the left (eastbound) carries the Seattle to Vancouver Cascade trains (see RR Log #37).  We will continue south and east through the Snohomish River Valley for a few miles.

38-39                        We are following the Snohomish River on the left (eastbound).  The name “Snohomish” is a variation of an Indian word which has been spelled Sda-hob-bish by linguists.  According to Edmund S. Meany, the name may mean “tidewater people.”

41     Across the river on the north (left if eastbound) is the City of Snohomish.  The city is located at the confluence of the Snohomish and Pilchuck Rivers.  The city was originally named Cadyville, after Captain Cady, who built a military trail over the crest of the Cascade Mountains known as Cady Pass.  In the late 1850’s, the growing town was called Snohomish City.

         Snohomish was established in 1859 and contains many Victorian homes and antique shops.  The Oxford Saloon is one such old Victorian building in town.  This region is also the center of a dairy cattle producing area, and the region tops the nation in pounds of milk produced per cow.

41.5   Cross Snohomish River.

42      Cross Pilchuck River.

44     The hills to the south mark the beginning of the Cascade Mountains, and are composed of Eocene-aged andesitic volcanic rocks.

46     At Fryelands, the railroad begins to run adjacent to U.S. 2.  We will be following U.S. 2 from here all the way across the mountains of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, through Glacier Park, and all the way across the northern Plains as far as Grand Forks, North Dakota (see RR Log #15c).

          A few miles to the south, the Skykomish River enters the Snohomish River.  We will now be following the Skykomish River up into the Cascades.

48      Pass through the city of Monroe, as we continue to traverse the flood plain of the Skykomish River.  This city was called Park Place in 1873 by Salem Wood when he founded the settlement.  It was renamed Monroe in 1889 by John Vanasdlen when he filed a township plat. Park Place continues to exist as a suburb.  the city is named after James Monroe, the 5th President of the United States. Monroe is the home of the Washington State Reformatory.

          Monroe is located on the Skykomish River, which was named for the Indians who lived along the river, the Skaik-mish, or “Inland People.”

49     The Skykomish River approaches the tracks here on the right (eastbound).  if you look carefully to the left, you should be able to see very well-defined glacial outwash terraces in the low hillsides.  The higher terrace is the oldest, and the lower terrace, the youngest, is now occupied by the modern flood plain of the Skykomish River.

51-52                        Another close encounter with the Skykomish River on the right (eastbound).  Although we are still traveling on the Skykomish River flood plain, we are entering the Northern Cascades physiographic province, as the scenery on either side of the tracks is becoming much more mountainous and covered by evergreen forest.  The Northern Cascade Subcontinent docked against the rest of the North American Continent during the Eocene Epoch, between 40 and 50 million years ago.  Much of the surficial deposits visible from the train here are glacial outwash deposits; however, the Northern Cascades are composed of ancient oceanic crust which has undergone varying degrees of metamorphism.  Most of the original rocks were sandstones and shales, and some of these rocks still preserve fossils of Cretaceous age, which developed when the rocks were originally deposited.  For the next several miles, the rocks will become progressively more deformed, and the rocks visible from the train will take on a folded, deformed, and foliated appearance. As we cross the Cascades, we will also see some younger granite intrusive rocks, which we will point out over the next several miles.

         The Cascades are known basically as a volcanic mountain range; however, most of the volcanic activity in the Cascades is further south, most notable being the recent eruptions of Mt. St. Helens in southern Washington, and the historic eruption of Lassen Peak in northern California in the early 20th century.  The rocks of the Northern Cascades are primarily older metamorphosed sedimentary rocks and igneous intrusions of Mesozoic to Lower Tertiary age, while the younger rocks in the Central and Southern Cascades to the south are middle to late Tertiary age.  Across the Skykomish River on the right (eastbound), Paleocene and Eocene volcanic rocks are exposed.

          The Cascade Range is approximately 700 miles long, and extends from northern California into British Columbia.  The mountain range is named after the many cascades of the Columbia River.

55.5  Cross Sultan River and pass through the town of Sultan.  In the 1870’s, this town was named by miners and prospectors for the Chief of a Snohomish Indian sub-tribe who lived on the Skykomish River.  His name was Tsul-tad, or Tseul-tud, which was later anglicized into Sultan.  In 1968, Sultan was visited by more than 20,000 hippies during The Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair, one of the first outdoor rock festivals.  The event took place on a farm near town.

57     Cross Wallace River, a tributary of the Skykomish.

59      Pass through the town of Startup.  This town was first named Wallace, for the Wallace Lumber & Manufacturing Company which operated here.  In 1901, the present name was adopted because of confusion with Wallace, Idaho.  The town is named after George G. Startup, who owned and operated the sawmill. From this town, a hiking trail leads to 265-ft Wallace Falls, north of town on the Wallace River.

         The hillsides visible to the north consist of Late Cretaceous and Lower Jurassic sedimentary and volcanic rocks, including andesite flows as well as sandstones and siltstones.

61      Pass through town of Gold Bar, which was named by Alonzo Low and a partner named Hooverson, who ran a prospector’s camp on a sand bar in the Skykomish River in 1879.  The prospect was a placer mine. The town of Gold Bar was platted on September 18, 1900, by the Gold Bar Investment Company.  During construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad in this area, there was such strong anti-Chinese feelings against the railroad laborers, that many of them hid in coffins to flee town.  This area is also an important lumbering area today.

62-64                        South of the railroad (right if eastbound), you can see Cretaceous and Tertiary aged greenstones, diorites, and gabbros, intruding older Jurassic to Cretaceous-aged sedimentary rocks.

          We are now in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

63.5   Cross the Skykomish River.

66      Cross the Skykomish River again, as we enter the outcrop area of the Oligocene-aged Index Batholith, visible on the left (eastbound). This intrusion is a gray granite peppered with black biotite crystals.  The batholith intruded the volcanic rocks in this part of the Cascades after the North American Subcontinent had accreted onto the North American Continent.  This batholith has been known to also contain occasional silver and copper.

69.5   As the train passes through a horseshoe curve, we cross the North Fork Skykomish River and pass through the town of Index.  Index was once exclusively a mining community north of Mt. Index and the forks of the Skykomish River. It was named in 1890 for Mt. Index by Amos D. Gunn, who purchased land and established a public house here.  Index is also the home of Bush House, a 1904 hotel in which people such as Calvin Coolidge, Teddy Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and William Howard Taft, would periodically visit.

71.5   In the river on the right (eastbound) is a fish ladder and a steep rapid known as Sunset Falls.  In the distance on the right, Mt. Index is visible.  Mt. Index is composed of Eocene-aged andesitic flows and volcanic breccia, which is underlain by Upper Jurassic to Cretaceous volcanic and sedimentary rocks.

72     As we cross the South Fork Skykomish River, another steep rapids, known as Canyon Falls, is visible on the left (eastbound)

73     Pass beneath U.S. 2.

73.5   Eagle Falls, yet another rapids on the South Fork Skykomish River, is visible on the right (eastbound).

75     Re-enter KING County, originally named after William Rufus King of Alabama, Vice President of the United States from 1853 until 1857, under President Franklin Pierce.  In 1985, the King County Council officially changed the namesake of the county to Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King.

75.5   Pass through the town of Baring.  This town was formerly a scene of prospecting and mining on a large scale.  It was named after Mt. Baring, 2 miles to the east, which was named by the early mountaineers for one of their members.  Former names of the town were Big Index and East Index.  The road into the mountains from the center of town leads to a popular hiking trail along Barclay Creek to Barclay Lake.

77.5   Pass beneath U.S. 2.

79.5  Pass through the town of Grotto, which was named after the deep ravines and gorges of nearby Grotto Mountain, which resemble caves. Some of the granite exposed in roadcuts north of the railroad contain older dark volcanic rocks, which were incorporated into the Grotto Batholith as it intruded the area.  The granitic hills on either side of the railroad in this area are part of the Grotto Batholith.

80      Note short tunnel in Highway U.S. 2 on the left (eastbound).

80.5   Money Creek Campground on the left (eastbound) is on the bank of the South Fork Skykomish River.

81      Pass through Miller River.  At the turn of the century, this was a boom town, but it is now almost abandoned.  Originally it was a center for mining and prospecting.  Its first name was Berlin, as given by the Great Northern Railway for German investors who purchased stock in the railroad as it was building westward toward Puget Sound.  After the U.S. declared war on Germany in World War I, the name was changed to that of the small river upon which it is located.

81.5   Cross the Miller River  The rocks visible on either side of the railroad are granites of the Beckler Peak Batholith, another Tertiary igneous intrusion.  The rocks along the river valley in this area, however, have been mapped as Paleocene-aged sedimentary rocks, primarily the Chukanut, Swauk, and Pipestone Canyon Formations.

83-84                      Pass through Skykomish.  The community of Skykomish was originally a railroad construction town, and later a sawmill center on the South Fork Skykomish River.  It was named after the Skaik-mish, or “inland people” Indians.  Skykomish is still a railroad town, and was established in 1904.  The old Skykomish Hotel on the left (eastbound) was a stayover and dining locale for many early Great Northern crews.  On the right, the remains of a concrete power plant are visible.  The plant once supplied electric power to the Great Northern Railroad, which ran from here to the Cascade Tunnel (see MP 96.5 below).  The advent of diesels on the railroad in 1956 made the power plant obsolete.

87.5   As we pass through the hairpin turn here, we cross the Foss River, which flows north into the South Fork Skykomish River.  This valley marks he approximate alignment of the Straight Creek Fault, a major fault in the Northern Cascades, which is actually a series of parallel north-south trending fractures which developed as the North Cascade Subcontinent accreted onto the North American Continent from the southwest.  As the accretion was taking place, the northward movement of the North American Plate was also taking place.  As the North American Plate moved northerly, the accreting subcontinent actually became continually wrenched apart in a series of “stairstep” fractures.  The mountains to the west are composed of Eocene-aged volcanic rocks underlain by older sandstones, while the mountains on the east are composed of metamorphic rocks underlain by older sandstones.

          Between here and Leavenworth, the rocks you are likely to see from your train will be much more highly metamorphosed than those you have been seeing, and they will also contain many igneous intrusions and batholiths. These rocks are likely composed of ancient continental crust.

         The area which the railroad will be traversing between here and Leavenworth is known as the Nason Ingalls Terrain, which consists of metamorphic gneisses and schists which were at one time continental crustal rocks.

90      We are now high above the Tye River on the left (eastbound).  Thee mass of rock we are skirting consists of pre-Jurassic aged metamorphic rocks intruded by Jurassic- to Cretaceous-aged granite.

93.5   Deception Falls may be visible in the small creek on the left (eastbound).

95     Pass through the community of Scenic.  This community is credited with being the highest community west of the Cascades in western Washington, at elevation 2110.  The name is purely descriptive, and was given by officials of the Great Northern Railway due to its wide vista of snow-clad mountains.  The rocks exposed in the area are granites from the Cretaceous-aged Mount Stuart Batholith.

96     Pass beneath U.S. 2 and enter the 7.8-mile long Cascade Tunnel.  This tunnel was completed by the Great Northern Railroad in 1929, and is the second longest tunnel in North America (the longest is the 9.1-mile long McDonald Tunnel in the Canadian Rockies. The Moffat Tunnel in the Colorado Rockies (see RR Log #16b) is only 6.2 miles in length).  It will take approximately 15 minutes to pass through this tunnel).

          Approximately 1180 ft above the tunnel, U.S. 2 crosses the crest of the Cascades at Stevens Pass, which was named after John Frank Stevens, the first European American to discover it.  The Stevens Pass Ski Area is located on U.S. 2 at the summit.

          Somewhere in the tunnel, we enter CHELAN County, the 3rd largest county in the State.  The county was formed by the State Legislature on March 13, 1899.  The original plan was to call the county Wenatchee, but legislators decided on the present name, which is a modification of Tsill-anne, an Indian name meaning “deep water,” which refers to Lake Chelan, several miles north of Stevens Pass.

104   Leave the Cascade Tunnel.  We are still following U.S. 2, and still traversing part of the Mount Stuart Batholith.  Mixed in with the gray granites of the batholith are Late Paleozoic and Mesozoic aged limestones of varying degrees of metamorphism. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area begins at the crest of the mountains visible on the right (eastbound).  Mt. Stuart is the highest peak in the Wilderness Area, attaining an elevation of 9415 ft.

105    Pass through the community of Berne, which lies on Nason Creek, visible on the left (eastbound).  The community was named by railroad officials for the rugged mountain scenery, which they compared to Berne, Switzerland.  The part of Washington we are traversing now is known as “Little Switzerland,” Nason Creek was named by residents in 1890 for a Wenatchee Indian, Mow-mo-nash-et, whose Anglo-Saxon name was Charley Nasen. Mr. Nasen owned a ranch on the lower course of the creek.

107.5 Pass through a short tunnel.

110.5 Whitepine Campground, on the left (eastbound), is located at the base of the Chiwaukum Mountains.

112    On the left (eastbound) is the community of Merritt. Note the old wooden water tower on the left.

117.5 At Coles Corner, we begin crossing the Chiwaukum Graben, a downdropped block of the earth’s crust.  The block dropped along normal faults during the Eocene Epoch.  This feature is approximately 12 miles long, and contains Eocene-aged rocks known as the Chumstick Formation, which consists of sedimentary rocks and pale-colored volcanic rocks.  The sediments were deposited as the North Cascade Subcontinent attached itself to the North American Continent.

118.5 Pass through Winton.  This town began as a railway spur.  Prior to 1908, this Great Northern railway spur was used for loading wood products and was called Wood Spur.  It was later changed to its present name by railroad officials.

119.5 Cross over U.S. 2 and pass through a 3950-ft tunnel.

120.5 Cross Deadhorse Creek.

121.5 As we pass through another short tunnel, we now find ourselves following the Wenatchee River for a few miles.  The Wenatchee River flows into the Columbia River at Wenatchee (see MP 163 below).

123.5 Cross Wenatchee River.

124.5 Cross Chumstick Creek.  We are still traversing Eocene-aged sedimentary rocks.

125    As we bend to the south, the railroad is following Chumstick Creek through a feature known as Icicle Canyon.  Look for wildlife along the creek and on the rocks in the canyon.

126.5 Cross Chumstick Creek again.  The rocks on either side of the railroad are Tertiary-aged (mostly Eocene) sedimentary and volcanic rocks which have been deposited in the Chiwaumuk Graben.

132 LEAVENWORTH “Icicle Station,” 11645 North Road.  Elevation approximately 1225.  This station began service on September 25, 2009.  It serves the Bavarian styled town of Leavenworth.  This town is located in the site of an Indian village.  In 1891, a settlement was established with the name of “Icicle.”  In 1892, the town was platted  and named after Captain C.F. Leavenworth, who operated the Leavenworth Townsite Company.  Leavenworth was a lumbering center in the 19th century, and when it began to die in 1962, it was transformed into the Bavarian-themed town it is now, in an effort to attract tourist.  The town is a recreational center today, and celebrates the German Maifest in the spring, as well as the Autumn Leaf Festival in October and the Christmas Lighting Festival in December.  The town is on the Wenatchee River, which is a popular whitewater rafting stream for 15 or so miles below the town.

Downtown Leavenworth is located approximately 0.5 mile southwest of the AMTRAK Icicle Station.