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Skagit River Dam Tours

Three Skagit River dams — Gorge, Diablo and Ross — are responsible for generating about 20 percent of the electricity for Seattle City Light customers. There's a lot of history to these dams, and they're in the middle of a lot of eye-popping alpine scenery.

You can soak up all of it by taking Seattle City Light-sponsored Skagit Tours. There are four in all — great ways to spend a day (or longer) in the spectacular North Cascades.

The Skagit Hydroelectric Powerhouse Tour, the most popular, is a combination of all the other tours, and then some. You’ll learn about the area’s history, kilowatts, turbines, spill gates and how many households can be powered by the project. You’ll drive across the top of Diablo Dam and motor by boat to the face of 450-foot-tall Ross Dam.

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, which opened in 2005, provides lunch on every tour, except for the walking tour of Newhalem. It’s an eco-friendly facility centered around environmental education.

The center consists of 16 buildings, outdoor learning shelters, a trail network and a dock on Diablo Lake.

Operated by the North Cascades Institute in partnership with Seattle City Light and the National Park Service, the center is billed as “a hub of discovery for all ages and abilities in one of the wildest, most biological diverse landscapes in North America.”

“We want people to come and visit,” said Martin. “Make arrangements and stay a night. It’s about total immersion.”

The Skagit Hydroelectric Powerhouse Tour
When: Sept. 20-21, Oct. 4-5
Cost: $40 adults (not suitable under age 12)
Details: Learn about the historic town of Newhalem and visit the Gorge Powerhouse and the Ladder Creek falls and garden. Venture to the town of Diablo, where you can explore the interior of Diablo Powerhouse. You’ll then return to the Environmental Learning Center, where lunch awaits. The adventure concludes with a boat tour on Diablo Lake, which includes a tour of Ross Powerhouse before returning to Newhalem.

Diablo Lake Boat Tours
When: Thursday-Monday, through Sept. 9Cost: $35 adults; $32 ages 62 and older; $18 ages 2-12; free under 2
Details: The tour begins with an organic lunch at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, followed by an exploration of Diablo Lake. Board the boat Cascadian and motor the length of the lake, experiencing nature’s beauty while exploring the scenery of the North Cascades.

The North Cascades Explorer Tour
When: Saturday-Sunday, through Sept. 8
Cost: $35 adults; $32 ages 62 and older; $18 ages 12 and under
Details: This tour offers a combination of walking and van explorations, so participants can get an up-close and behind-the-scenes tour of the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. Rangers from the North Cascades National Park Service, as well as naturalists from the North Cascades Institute, will educate participants about the history of the Skagit project starting in the company town of Newhalem.

A short van ride from Newhalem takes visitors across the Skagit River for the opportunity to walk through the Ladder Creek Falls garden. Step inside the Gorge Powerhouse to view its inner workings as well as artifacts. From there, board a van to visit the company town of Diablo and experience the all-new art-deco lobby and viewing gallery at Diablo Powerhouse. This is a rare opportunity for the public to see the interior of the power generators. The tour concludes with a picnic lunch.

Newhalem Walking Tours
When: Thursday-Monday, through Sept. 9
Cost: Free
Details: No reservations required; 45-minute tours start at 2 p.m. daily. The tour, a stroll down the Skagit Hydroelectric Project’s memory lane, starts at the Skagit Information Center and makes stops at all the historical sites vital to the Skagit project.

One of the must-see attractions includes Old No. 6, a steam engine that chugged along the Skagit River corridor, transporting workers and supplies during the construction phase of the dams.

More information

Visit skagittours.com or call 360-854-2589 for reservations.