Last weekend, my husband and I took the Skagit Tour on Diablo Lake, located just off the North Cascades Highway near Newhalem. I remembered taking the same trip in my tweens and it stuck with me. Then it combined a ride up a pulley contraption, a boat tour and a farm-style chicken lunch where you passed around platters of chicken and bowls of mashed potatoes (even then that was my favorite part).
I’ve been wanting to go again to see if it was how I remembered it. Because Diablo Dam and two other dams in the area create the majority of the power for Seattle City Light, they had always handled the tours before. Then last year, the economy forced them to cancel for the year. This year Seattle City Light partnered with the North Cascades Institute and the North Cascades National Park to bring the tours back.
The day begins with a healthy buffet lunch, organic salad makings, soups, macaroni and cheese, plus a variety of desserts. After a short orientation by one of the park rangers, you’re free to wander the grounds, check out the gift shop or hike down to the boat launch. I visited the gift shop and found out a mama black bear and her two cubs had been sited on the property just four days before. I sincerely hoped I didn’t meet up with her.
We boarded the Alice Ross III (she’s had two predecessors) at 1 p.m. for the narrated boat tour of Diablo Dam, which was built in 1920 and Diablo Lake. We passed by two islands – one named Deer Island, because deer actually swim out to it to sample the grass and another named Monkey Island.
J.D. Ross was the supervisor of Seattle City Light when Diablo, Ross and Gorge Dam were built. The story has it that he was quite a showman. So he populated one of the islands with monkeys and when the boat tour went by passengers saw monkeys swinging through the trees. In no way is this a climate monkeys like so every night a zookeeper had to take them to a warm place to sleep. Now the monkeys are gone.
When you go on this tour, you’ll hear lots more stories like the one about Monkey Island. I highly recommend it as informative, educational and above all, very pleasurable. It’s not the same tour of my childhood, but it’s still a very good one.