Outdoors blog

North Cascades Highway opening is harbinger of summer

PARKS -- Suddenly it seems as though summer will happen.

Washington's North Cascades Highway, a gateway to North Cascades National Park, opened Tuesday, weeks earlier than last year because of a thinner snow pack. The route gives easier East-West access across the northern region of the state.

The April 16 opening compares with the May 10 opening in 2012, when the photo with this post was snapped near Liberty Bell.

Washington Department of Transportation crews began the process of clearing State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, on March 25, a day earlier than last year. On average, it takes four to six weeks for crews to clear the highway, but this year they accomplished it in three weeks. Crews cleared snow as deep as 35 feet over the roadway; last year, it was double the amount.

The highway was closed Nov. 20, 2012, from milepost 134, seven miles east of Diablo Dam on the west side of Rainy Pass, to milepost 171, nine miles west of Mazama.

  • The latest reopening for the highway was recorded on June 14, 1974.
  • The earliest opening was March 10, 2005.
  • In 1980, four years after the highway first opened, it remained open all winter due to a drought year.

For more information, including a history of opening and closing dates, maps, photos and progress reports on the 2013 opening, visit the North Cascades web page.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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