Researched, assembled and organized by: Dan Berentson, Josef and Larry Kunzler
Index prepared by Larry Kunzler, 12/15/2005





The Skagit News



to the senate and house of representatives

            The undersigned citizens of Skagit County, State of Washington, believe that a fair consideration of the conditions surrounding the Skagit River and tributary country will induce such liberal action on the part of Congress as will meet the requirements of our present environments and prevent any disaster in the future such as we have suffered in the past.  . . .  The surveys already made, and the map attached hereto sustains the statement that there are tributary to Skagit River about forty Townships, or over fourteen hundred square miles of land.  A large proportion of this country is now, and all of it, when developed, must be largely dependent for its commerce on this important River.  It is navigable for light draft Steamers from its mouth to Sauk City, a distance of about seventy miles, and at some seasons to Marblemount, fifteen miles above Sauk City.  . . .  A system of dikes extends on both sides of the River from its mouth to and above the village of Avon, about fifteen miles; and connecting with the main system, are other dikes, running across the level country toward LaConner and other points to the North and South of the River.  This diking system has been rendered necessary by the filling in of the bed and mouths of the River, from causes which will be explained, and ought to be remedied.  The system, already constructed and maintained, embraces one hundred and fifty-eight miles of dikes, and has cost in money and labor expended in construction, the large sum of three hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars.  All of this has been expended by owners of land in the Skagit valley, including the residents of towns liable to inundation.  . . . 

Before the mouth of the river began to be obstructed, the accumulating waters of the greatest freshets did not overflow the banks.  A channel varying in depth from twelve to twenty feet was a sufficient outlet for all the water that passed in swift torrents from the mountains and highlands of the North and East.  . . .  The main channel or mouth of the River is now closed from an accumulation of logs, driftwood and sediment.  Where a few years ago Steamers could safely navigate in fifteen feet of water persons can now walk from one bank of the River to the other on logs, or other obstruction.  The only entrance from the Sound into the Skagit is by way of a small Slough, narrow and unsafe, and through which Steamers at high tide can find only about six feet of water.  The North fork of the River, through which navigation was formerly maintained, is now practically closed, and no boat can traverse its waters.  The South fork is only navigable from Fir, where it flows through and becomes a part of Steamboat Slough, heretofore mentioned.  Various reasons may be assigned for the obstruction and closing of the two mouths of the River, but until Boom Companies were permitted to place obstructions in the River and to locate their booms and appliances near the mouths, there was no trouble about overflows.

            We call your attention to the fact that since November, 1892, the floods in the Skagit have four times swept over the banks, broken the dikes and inundated the surrounding country.  The destruction of property by the overflow in November, 1892, and January, 1895, was not very great, but the overflow in May, 1894, and June of that year entailed a direct loss on the people of the Skagit Valley as shown by estimates attached hereto, approximating one-half million of dollars.  The town of Mount Vernon was entirely flooded, small boats and rafts navigated the streets and the people were driven from their homes for safety to the hills.  The damage to public and private property was great, and the suffering from exposure and sickness was distressing.



Unfortunately the newspaper did not publish the names or who wrote this Memorial.



The first documented “investigation” of the Skagit River was done by the Corps of Engineers in 1890.  On October 13, 1890 Capt. E.H. Jefferson wrote:  “There are several sloughs and channels through which the river finds its way to salt water.  Steamboat Slough is the principal one, and used by the Steamers.  The others are inferior and operated by the log-boom companies.” 


158 miles of dikes.  Cost $335,000.







These paragraphs strongly suggest that before the log boom companies came that the river did not flood.  This of course was not true.


The 1897 Corps survey map shows that the “Old Main Channel” was completely obstructed with log jams.  One has to wonder how much of this log jam was created by the removal of the log jams further upriver at Mt. Vernon.






Previously it has been believed that the only time downtown Mt. Vernon went underwater was in the flood of 1897. (See Skagit Argus article 12/15/21.)  Clearly this Memorial contradicts that statement.  It is also the first time that a summer flood was documented as having hit the valley.  Why didn’t Stewart find any evidence of this flood event or for that matter even mention it?


The Highest Water Known

The highest water in the Skagit River known to white men occurred last night.  On last Thursday a Chinook wind commenced to blow which was accompanied by a warm rain.  This rapidly cut away the snow which for several weeks had been creeping down the mountain sides.  The wind continued over Friday when the river commenced to rise rapidly.  By Saturday afternoon the river was booming and many thought it had reached its highest stage.  This however, was not the case as it continued to creep upward during yesterday, and until last night.  As the water gradually rose on the levees it became apparent that unless strenuous efforts were made to raise them, the town would be flooded.  The experience of former occasion was enough to induce all parties to lend a hand, so that when the fire bell rang out the alarm, not for fire gut water, an army of men turned out with shovels and commenced to build a dike on top of the levee, commending at the hill and working clear down through the city.  This work saved the town, and but for it, from ten to eighteen inches of water would have swept over the levees and through the city. 

. . . Six hundred feet of the Great Northern railroad track between the bridge and Burlington were washed out, . . . The protection pier at the Great Northern bridge was knocked out and that structure was in great danger of being washed away.  . . . Two big breaks in the levee on the west side occurred.  One near F.C. Ward’s place, the other at D. Storr’s place.  The whole west side including West Mt. Vernon, is a lake.


USGS (Stewart) says 185,000 cfs  at Sedro-Woolley.  No figure for Concrete.


“The experience of former occasion was enough to induce all parties to lend a hand…”  This statement confirms that downtown Mt. Vernon had indeed gone under before.

According to COE reports there were 3 floods in 1896.  January, June & November.  The COE Taylor Report 12/11/1897 stated that “River reportedly was 24 ft on Great Northern Railroad Bridge 6 miles above Mt. Vernon.”, which was 2 ft and 4 ft above the January and June floods respectively. 


Burlington levees broke.  Westside Mt. Vernon levees broke.

Clearly damage not as great as 1917.


Protecting the banks

One of the most important questions for the consideration of the settlers of the Skagit Valley is an adequate protection to the rivers banks from wash during high water.  It is possible to build a levee of sufficient height to prevent overflow, but it is impossible to build a levee that shall withstand the slow undermining of the river at its base.  So far, several methods have been tried but none of them are entirely satisfactory.  The New Orleans Picayune of Aug. 16 has a description of a system which has been tried along the banks of the Mississippi, with the most satisfactory results.  The following extract from the article will explain the system:

The system was invented by Messers. R.H.F. and N. H. Sewall.  The former gentlemen being interviewed stated that their system of dikes is nothing new to the engineers and citizens at large who are interested in such work.  . . .  The plan is to construct spur dikes of timber at intervals along the caving banks.  These dikes project upstream at an angle of about 25 degrees.  They are constructed of piling driven 80 to 85 feet into the river bottom; the water will fall into the angle formed by the dike and the bank, and be held there, forming a motionless body of water on both sides of the dike, which leaves no pressure against same.  The deposit of the silt laden waters of the Mississippi will b stopped by the dike and will gradually settle, forming an accretion which will eventually create a batture.[2]

New Kind of Dikes









The Sewall’s might have taken credit for this design but it is very similar to what a hydraulic engineer professor in the early 1500’s taught to his class.  That engineer was Leonardo daVinci. 


The great flood -- The Skagit on a big tear -- The Skagit Valley From The Baker Valley To The LaConner Flats Washed By The Ruinous Flood—Stock And Improvements Carried Away

On Wednesday of last week, the wind began to blow from southeast and, before evening had developed into a chinook gale. Unfortunately for the river bottom settlers of the Skagit valley, the warm wind continued until about 4 p.m. Sunday.  On Friday the Skagit began to rise quite rapidly and continued rising at an average rate of three inches an hour until Sunday morning when it began to abate. In the afternoon of that day, the river had risen until all previous highwater marks at Sedro was one foot seven inches under water.  The whole valley east of Sedro was a floating wilderness.  Hamilton was totally inundated; one brick building having caved in and several frame ones torn from their foundations.  The county bridges recently constructed wee destroyed and the improved roads that had become the pride of the upper valley became an easy prey to the devastating waters.  Lower Sedro suffered heavily.  A large number of cattle and small stock perished and buildings ruthlessly torn from their foundations were cast hap-hazard amid the heaps of debris.  Mortimer Cook’s store that has weathered the floods and storms of fifteen years, rose with the eddying waters and turned half way round before lodging against some trees and stumps.

. . . South Burlington sustained great damage.  Houses and barns were undermined and toppled to the ground and the winter’s supply which they contained scattered on the tide.  The fencing of years yielded to the flood and the clearings that represented the toil of a decade were covered with the debris of the surrounding forest.  . . .  West Mount Vernon is next in line of progress and received no favor from the impartial flood.  The water, rising from one to two feet above the first floor of the dwellings, swept fences and everything movable before it.  . . .  In the year 1878 Joseph Hart, our well known fellow citizen, came to Puget Sound and two years latter came to the Skagit valley, just prior to the great flood of 1880.  Since the flood of that year there have been three freshets that have equaled it in height, and the one we chronicle this week surpassed it by eighteen inches.  . . .  In speaking of the floods and their causes, Mr. Hart said:  “At the time of my coming to the valley there had been no freshets of note for many years, and the one that came in 1880 was a damper to the enthusiasm of the dwellers on the marsh lands; but, as several years rolled by without a repetition of the catastrophe and a system of dikes was inaugurated, contentment banished fear.  Shortly after the memorable high water of that year, I had a talk with an old Indian and his squaw, who used to live on Skiyou Island but have since died of small-pox.  These worthies took me to a tree near by and directed my attention to a water mark at least six feet higher than the highest point reached by the recent freshet and said that when they were children the great flood swept down the valley carrying death and destruction everywhere.  He said:  ‘The lodges of my people were carried with their canoes and winters food out to the great waters, and they were left to suffer the horrors of starvation and death from exposure to the inclement elements.  The snows of winter fell to an unusual depth and the animals upon which we were wont to subsist, greatly reduced in numbers by drowning and driven into the mountain fastnesses by the raging torrent, were hard to get and very poor.  The fish we had prepared for winter use were destroyed by the angry waters and we were made to suffer the wrath of the Great Spirit.’ ” Continuing Mr. Hart said:  “Judging from the apparent age of the Indians at that time I should place the time of that greatest of the great freshets at about the beginning of the present century, and was caused according to the story of these Indians, by heavy snows coming early in the fall, which were immediately succeeded by a very warm Chinook wind which blew for many days.  As to this being the only and real cause of the unprecedented high water, however, I have my doubts.  Our fellow townsman, Mr. H.L. Devin, was some years ago engaged in surveying in the upper valley in the vicinity of Baker Lake.  Being detained over night in an Indian camp, he was told the history of a great flood.  They said that about 60 years ago a great slide had choked up the narrow outlet of the Baker Valley and that the water accumulated in the basin thus formed until the whole valley was an immense lake, full 80 feet deep.  By this time the imprisoned waters had burst through the dam and in a few hours this great volume of water was precipitated into the Skagit flooding the whole valley.  The water marks still plainly visible high up the sides of the Baker Valley and the great variation in those upon the trees as you come down the Skagit would indicate that this was the real cause of that terrible disaster.





3 inches an hour for approximately 48 hours would be 144 inches or only 12 feet.  This would not be a very large flood by todays standards even if we assume the river was at 20 feet when it started to rise.  This could explain why the COE stated the BNSF RR bridge only reached 24 feet (See TSN entry 11/16/1898).  Burlington at that time was not protected by levees and the water must have flowed down Gages Slough.


Cook’s store was located on the edge of the river.


South Burlington would have been the Gages Slough area.  No references to downtown Burlington.


West Mt. Vernon water one to two feet deep.



Water only a foot and a half more then three previous floods since 1880.  This would have included the 1884 flood that inundated downtown Mt. Vernon.  (See 1895 article above.)







This would have been the 1815 flood Stewart talked about.  Stewart later recanted this by saying The old Indian who told Hart and others at Sedro Woolley in 1879 that the flood was when he was a boy either referred to another flood or they did not understand him.”

(Source:  Transcription of Stewart “flood notes” on 9/16/22 by USGS 6/30/23 re Reflector Bar near Marblemount)







The narrow outlet in the Baker Valley would be where Upper Baker Dam is now.  Baker River before the dam ran on the east side of Baker Valley.


Water marks up the sides of the Baker Valley and on trees down the Skagit.  USGS now says this flood never happened because they can’t find any evidence.


Dikes And Fisheries

Upon the call of Representative J. E. Nelson quite a large number of Skagit county people who are interested in the subjects of dikes and fisheries gathered in the court house in Mount Vernon last Tuesday and a thorough discussion was had of the needs of the county in relation to the above subjects.  In the matter of improving the diking system it was the universal opinion that the first and most important steps to be taken is to secure the removal of the “boom works” from the mouth of the river so that the water will carry its load of debris out to sea instead of depositing it in the river channels where it forms a dam to the free outlet.  Old settlers related that in the early days before the erection of the “boom works” there were three clear channels out to deep water with a depth of from 16 to 18 feet of water, but immediately following the construction of the “boom works” the channels began to fill up with drift until now there is but one navigable channel and that has only a depth of about 6 or 8 feet in a most tortuous channel.  . . .  In regard to the fishing interests it was the general opinion that laws should be passed prohibiting the erection of traps in or near the mouth of any river or in any “fish runway.”  And further that the state would foster the fishing industry by the establishment of an additional number of hatcheries.


River used to have “3 clear channels”.  The one they are talking about in this article is Steamboat Slough.






North and South Forks used to be 16 to 18 feet deep.


Steamboat Slough 6-8 feet deep.


No “fish traps” in or near the mouth of river or in any “fish runways”.  Should build fish hatcheries.


Disastrous Flood -- Mt. Vernon Is A Heavy Sufferer

Levees Overflowed and Sidewalks Washed Out.  A Torrent of Water Pours Through The City.  Several Houses Wrecked and One or Two Narrow Escapes.

On Wednesday morning a very warm Chinook wind commended to blow which increased in force until evening, when it was almost a gale.  This hot wind blowing directly on the snow which had been creeping down the hills for the last few weeks, cut it away with the rapidity of fire, and resulted in a raging torrent rushing down the valley of the Skagit on its way to the sea.   The rise did not commence until Wednesday evening, as it usually takes from twelve to fourteen hours for the effects of a Chinook to make their appearance, and the same time to cease.  By Thursday the river was still raising but still within the banks.  During the night, however the water came with increased force, and early on Friday morning the alarm was whistled from the electric light plant which called for help only to find the water pouring over the levees in all directions.  Some efforts were made to raise the levees and keep ahead of the water, but it came so fast that they were useless.  . . .  In the southern part of the city, the very lowest quarter, a great break occurred in the levee, caused by the water pouring over the top, which swept everything before it with irresistible force.  . . .  After the flood Kincaid Street presented a sight that was dismal in the extreme, being washed out and lined with debris from one end to the other.  All other parts of the city were in nearly as bad condition.  . . .  From Conway to salt water, the flood poured over the top of the levee the entire distance on the east side of the river.

On the west side of the river several small breaks occurred letting through large volumes of water.  But little damage was caused however.  . . .  At one time the bridge across the river at this point was in real danger.  A jam had formed on one of the piers which gradually increased in size until it reached almost across the river.  By good work and the liberal use of giant powder, the jam was finally broken, and the bridge cleared.  It is badly damaged however, and cannot be used by teams until repaired.  The protection pier on the next span east of the draw was knocked completely out, and the full force of the jam came against the main pier, springing it fully 18 inches out of plumb.  . . .  At the mouth of the river, steamboat slough, the only channel that can be used by steamboats, is completely blockaded.  . . .  The Great Northern coast line was overflowed as usual, but not so badly damaged as it was last year.  The first train from the south came in today.  A jam formed against the bridge at the Davis place, and came near taking it out.  As it was the protection piers were knocked out, and the rails on the bridge were sprung fully 18 inches.



USGS (Stewart) says 275,000 cfs at Concrete, 190,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley.




12-14 hours is still what it takes for flood waters to get from Concrete to Mt. Vernon.


Water pouring “over” the levees.  This is the first time we have seen evidence of water over the levees.


Downtown Mt. Vernon flooded.





Kincaid Street washed out.


Conway levees overtopped.  Fir Island levees broke.


Log jam on Riverside bridge.






Steamboat Slough blocked with log jam.  No channel open to the sound.


Great Northern (BNSF) bridge damaged by log jam.





the sterling cut-off

Meeting at Commercial Club Last Tuesday – some opposition met with by property owners in that locality

            The meeting held on Tuesday afternoon at the Commercial Club rooms to consider the matter of securing the right-of-way for the Sterling Bend Cut-off in the Skagit river was largely attended by the owners of property adjacent to the proposed cut-off, and the owners of property which is being damaged by the present erratic course of the river.  The urgent necessity for action in securing an appropriation as soon as possible in order to prevent the  great amount of further damage threatened, seemed to be thoroughly appreciated by all who have seen the effects of the high floods during a long residence along the river, but it developed that parties who have recently settled on the river and have not had any experience of extreme high waters were unable to appreciate the possible consequences to their property should the cut-off fail to be secured.

Sterling Cut-Off


It is believed that they were talking about cutting off the Sterling Bend as at that time the Skagit used to flow around Hart’s Island and during times of flooding the river would flow across Highway 20 (the “Old Dollar Road”) into Gages Slough (Varney Slough).

In 1911 during a very small flood event the local farmers took dynamite and blew up a log jam causing the river to change channel. (Source:  1923 Stewart Report)


The ferry

The above illustration of the ferry across the Skagit river at the foot of Third Street is from a negative made by G. C. White.  It is a spot visited by many during the pleasant weather, the beauties of the Skagit river being presented in a charming manner to those who take a trip across.  At this point the river is nearly a thousand feet across.  The Skagit river bears the distinction of being the largest water course in the state, after the Columbia.  The scenery along the banks is varied, increasing in beauty in its upward course.  Several of these ferry’s are in operation at different points along the river.

Skagit River Ferries

This is a great picture of how local residents would cross the river in “the early days.”


Developing The Country  --  Railway Activity Is Skagit County

The Great Northern is Planning Much Improvement for Next Year

Within the next year Skagit county will be developed more than has been the case since the county has been in existence.  This is made possible from the fact that Mr. James J. Hill, who deserves the title of Father of the Northwest, is planning many valuable improvements on such a nature as will bring into the county hundreds of people who will settle upon the rich lands and improve and develop the many resources.  . . .  For a number of years the mining men of Skagit Pass, of Ruby and State creek have cried out for roads and transportation facilities, but have been unable to get them.  . . .  That Skagit county has paying mineral deposits there is but the slightest question.  She has not only gold and silver but iron and copper and cement rock and other valuable minerals.  . . .  But the mineral is not Mr. Hills only object, there are great forests of timber to be moved and there are fertile acres to be developed in the future.

Railroad Development










There’s gold in them thar hills.


And a few trees and good farmland too.


Our Resources Are Many -- A Splendid Poor Man’s Country

Work is Plentiful at All Times and Wages are Always Good

What Skagit county needs is more people to develop the great rich fields which spread off every hand.  There is not a country on earth where so many rich stores await the hand of toil and there is not a land extant where the poor man can so nicely get along and soon be in easy circumstances.  Skagit county is one vast field of richness, producing the greatest hay, grain, vegetables and fruits to be found anywhere and once this becomes known to the eastern man who is seeking a home, it will be only the matter of a very few years until this whole country will be alive with industrious men, building homes and developing the great resources which surround them.  Our county needs advertising we must place before the people that which we have for sale.  . . .  Let the eastern people know that we have a land of perfect health, that we have no heat or cold to the extreme, just an even, pleasant climate where health is catching and nature has a bountifully blessed the country with scenic mountains, sapphire seas, fantastic forest, green islands, and crystal lakes.  Let this be known and Skagit county will not be long in claiming her own. 

The Selling of Skagit County


“What Skagit County needs is more people . . . . “  Perhaps today this statement would not be so true.


Interesting in this article is that it doesn’t mention floods.


Skagit River Out Of Its Banks

Water In Valley Highest Known for Years—Burlington High and Dry—Very Little Damage

On Thursday evening the Skagit river was the highest known for years.  Some damage was done at various points on the river.  West Mt, Vernon was flooded, but with very light damage.  The west span of the bridge at that place was swept away.  The draw on the railroad bridge was slightly damaged by a heavy drift but will soon be repaired.  No water came within the corporate limits of Burlington except in the slough in the east part of town, and no damage was done.



USGS (Stewart) says 180,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.  No figure for Concrete.


“highest known for years”  Should have read highest since 1897 which according to USGS was 275,000 cfs at Concrete and 190,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.   Burlington had no water in 1906 according to this article. 


Highest Water In Many Years – Skagit River Goes On Big Rampage

All Bridges are Damaged and Dikes Broken in a Number of Places Along the River

While no great amount of damage resulted, it is never the less a fact that the old timer does not remember when the Skagit river contained as much water as it did Thursday night and Friday, and only prompt action on the part of the city officials and citizens saved the town from being inundated.  The dikes here were very secure and did not break but the torrents of water poured over them and it was only by prompt action on the part of the citizens, who labored like Trojans filling sacks of sand and placing them in the low places, that saved the city from another baptism worse than that of 1897, as the water was at least eight inches higher than it was during that memorable freshet.   . . .  The greatest damage done is to the numerous bridges along the river. The railway bridge between this city and Burlington has been greatly damaged and one span of the Mt. Vernon bridge was swept away which leaves the city practically cut away from all communications.  . . . The bridge at this place will never lament with safety, one span carried away, the others injured. A ferry will be established and sustained here until such time as a new bridge can be constructed.  . . . . These floods are fraught with no great danger and throughout the country where the dikes gave way there has been no loss of life and but little damage to property and the farmers are not at all discouraged or alarmed about the future. The dikes in the main remained secure and when the damaged dikes are repaired they will be made sufficiently strong to withstand all future floods. Any home seeker or investor when contemplating coming to Skagit Valley should not hesitate to do so for in truth these floods are of no great consequence except what damage is done to bridges. They really benefit the land, but there is no doubt but in future years the dikes will be so strengthen as to withstand these floods and the country back of them will always remain dry.

Reported Flood Levels do not Support Stewart


“no great damage”.


Mt. Vernon levees did not break.




This begs the question how did they end up with 8 inches higher water with 5,000 cfs less water.



Bridges damaged.



“No great danger from floods.”  In a few years they will regret making that statement.




Floods “really benefit the land.”


There should not be too much blame laid at the door of the dike commissioners because of the dikes breaking.  Those dikes wee built under many difficulties and considering the newness of the country they have held in pretty good shape.  The majority of dikes withstood the floods and in a majority of cases the commissioners are to be commended upon their excellent work.  Where logs or stumps were left in the dikes it is to be regretted, but remember that at this time floods extended almost from coast to coast.

Dike Commissioners Not The Blame




Freaks Of The Big Freshet -- Many Curious Turns Are Suddenly Taken

Great Excavations are Made Showing the Wonderful Depth of Skagit County Soil

Although no great killing damage was done by the deed of last week, still at certain places the waters cut many curious capers, especially on the ferry road above the city where the greatest amount of damage was done to fences, walks, houses and barns.  In places great excavations 400 feet in length and several feet deep were made.  . . . Great stumps were washed out by the roots leaving the deep excavations all the way from 12 to 20 feet in depth.  Old logs which had been buried no doubt for a century were exhumed by the playful waters leaving great trenches washed deep into the soil.  Below the city in the vicinity of Cedardale, the dykes gave way because of stumps being unintentionally left in them.  These stumps were several feet below the surface and unknown to the dike commissioners.  The waters however entered a rat hole, found their way and the stumps came to the surface by following the crevices made by the stumps at last passing through and soon soaked the dike until it gave way.  The waters then lifted the great roots from hiding places of great years and tumbled them into the great torrents which rushed through the dikes.  . . .  The report published in the P.I. that the dykes at Avon had broken is false, as there is not a break in the dyke within a mile of that town. . . .  The dykes at Mt. Vernon did not break, all stood secure until the city limits were passed.  Just above the city the dyke gave way and the water backed into West Mt. Vernon, making quite a serious time for their inhabitants of that side of the river, but all escaped unharmed, no less save a few chickens.  . . .  The citizens take the freaks of the river in a philosophical manner and are not in the least discouraged.

Dikes Blew Because of “Rat Holes & Stumps”



Great excavations 400 ft in length and several feet deep. 



Old logs buried for 100 years.








Avon levees did not break.  City of Mt. Vernon levees did not break.  Just above city levees broke and backed into West Mt. Vernon.



Floods not a big deal??


True flood report

We have done a little wading and done a little swimming, And we hit for good tall timber when the river got to raging, But we didn’t lose our horses, our cattle, nor our women, Though the water was rather wet and quite above its staging.  . . .

So here’s to good ole Mt. Vernon and the fertile Skagit valley, We don’t care for the river if she does go on a spree, Let her fill her banks and gurgle, and boil, and foam, and sally, It’s the land of milk and honey she is kissing, don’t you see?



Poem downplays the impacts of the flood.


Raging Waters – That Came and have gone and the harm done.

Skagit County Suffers Little in Comparison with other sections of the State—Useless Fears of Future.

So far as can be learned the recent flare-up of the Skagit river and its tributaries concentrated its damaging effects against bridges and railroads.  No loss of Human life, except that of Mr. H. Peterson at Mt. Vernon, was caused by it.  The case of Mr. Peterson was the result of a self inflicted accident caused by coming in contact with the iron crank used in opening and closing the draw on the county bridge at Mt. Vernon.  A blast to loosen a jam of debris in the river was about to be fired, and in running in the darkness to a place of safety the unfortunate man collided with the iron and injured himself internally, from which he died the day after.  . . .  At Mr. Vernon, while the water over-flowed low places on the dike, by vigilance and hard work the citizens prevented the water making dangerous inroads.  West Mt. Vernon was less fortunate and the town was flooded to a considerable extent but without serious loss.  The dikes both above and below Mt. Vernon broke, but the overflow is, in most cases, looked upon as a benefit rather than an injury to the land covered.  . . .  The railroad bridge between Burlington and Mt. Vernon was put out of commission for several days by drift striking and throwing the draw out of line.  . . .  The water in Big Lake, it is said, was backed up into the basements of several houses.  North of the river the water backs in west of the railroad tracks for a considerable distance toward town, while the water in the slough between the town and river made things look serious for a time, and a rise of a few more inches would have put Sedro-Woolley into the flooded district. . . . The rapid succession of rises and overflows is the subject of much conjecture and comparison with old time occurrences of a like nature.  High water marks of former days are contrasted with those being made, and imagination lures the possibilities of the future.  In this relation it should be remembered that, with the obstruction made by the dense forests and under-growths of years ago, the water which has recently ran out of the mountains and hills would have been backed up to the highest marks made by the flood anywhere in the past.  Whatever may happen in the future it has been fairly demonstrated that Skagit County is not in danger of a widely disastrous overflow.  The greatest danger that threatens is to those who might be affected by a change of the river’s course, which even now is demonstrated to be not unlikely.  The removal of timber quite likely has something to do with climatic changes that are said to be notable in this country.  The same thing lessens resistance to any change of base crowding water will cause the river to make.  It is possible that an extreme was reached in the last rise and that the worst that can occur has been demonstrated and has passed.  If that is true the lesson taught should prepare everyone for any future occurrence.


USGS (Stewart) says 180,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.  No figure for Concrete.


Death of Mr. Peterson.




Log jams “blasted” off of bridges.



Levees overtopped.


Floods and levee breaks in most cases looked upon as a benefit rather than an injury to the land.

Levees broke above and below Mt. Vernon.


GNRR (BNSF) bridge between Mt. Vernon and Burlington damaged.


Big Lake backs up.



Attributes past high water marks to dense forest.

Skagit County is not in danger of a widely disastrous overflow.”  Really?




Sounds like they are describing “global warming.”


As will be demonstrated later the extreme was not reached in the 1906 flood event as the 1909, 1917 and 1921 floods were higher.


Refugee Notes from East Burlington

The Skagit river has again risen in her majesty, and outdone its previous efforts for some years back.  Everybody at Sterling south of the railroad track was compelled to move, some not getting their household goods high enough, as the water kept raising were obliged to move again.  . . .  Buzz Jewell suffered the greatest financial loss of anyone, as the river raised so that it covered most of his forty acres, and poured over the county roads in such volumes as to cut a chasm thirty feet wide and fifteen feet deep, the roaring of which could be heard half a mile away.  Jeffery Grimbly and wife moved out in season to escape being rescued by a raft this time, “I think the women all bore in mind the instance of one lady during the last flood, being carried out and deposited upon a raft outside the front gate, and determined to get out while the traveling was good.”  . . .  In the dwellings of Messers. Grimbly, Chappeau, and Raymont the water came up to the door knobs.  . . .  The flood did no damage to Wm. Crotchett except to fill all the holes in and about his barn yard.  It poured a wide stream of water over the county road and ran over the road into the slough.  . . .  The bridge over the slough by Wm. Miller’s place is impassable, having been built on logs, which were jarred loose lifting the bridge about three feet into space at one end.

East and South Burlington Damage

Sterling damaged.







Water at least 3 feet deep in houses.




Floodwaters found their way to Gages Slough.


What we have.

Come this way Mr. Traveler, and never be afraid, The floods have all subsided; we no longer have to wade, Trout are in the river we catch them at our ease, The weather’s moderated, no danger of a freeze, The winds are blowing milder, we feel a sort of charm, And the waters which were raging have ceased from doing harm, . . . Come out here Mr. Eastern man and settle down with us, Land’s so poor back yonder you can scarcely raise a fuss.  But here’s the land of plenty, the land of perfect ease, And the milk and honey’s flowing from the cows and honey bees.


Another poem by Charlie Gant downplaying the impact of floods.


Bond County For Bridges --Taxpayers Should Vote Sufficient Bonds

County Must Progress and Many New Bridges Are an Absolute Necessity

The News-Herald believes only in bonds when bonds are an absolute necessity, and it would seem that at this time such is the case.  There never was a time in the history of this county when bridges were such an absolute necessity.  The county at the present is maintaining eleven ferries at a cost of $3,036, this is for ferry tenders alone, not speaking of the expense of the repairs.  If we had three of four new bridges the county could save $996 per year on hire alone, but this is not the point at issue.  In maintaining these ferries the county will eventually pay out money enough to have built a steel bridge wherever needed and will not have a thing to show for it aside from a few cables and a few worthless old scows.  . . .  Ferries are dangerous, especially the weaklings which are constructed along the Skagit river.  There has been loss of life and property on these ferries.  They are only temporary, while steel bridges properly constructed are good for a lifetime, and once they are constructed the taxpayers feel secure, knowing that the expense is almost at an end.  At the present time the county is paying out annually enough to pay the interest on the amount necessary to construct these bridges, and why not do it?

New Bridges Needed



County needed steel bridges over the Skagit River.  Editor wanted to do away with the 11 ferries being operated at the County taxpayer expense.


Bridge Ready For Service--Repairs Are Now In Good Order

Excellent Work on the Part of Our County Commissioners and the Citizens of Mt. Vernon

The span in the bridge which was washed away during the flood has been replaced by a new one and the farmers can now cross with their teams.  The new span which rests upon large new piling is perfectly secure in every respect and will answer admirably until such time when the county is in shape to put in a new bridge, or at least until the next freshet.

Riverside Bridge Repaired



Span washed away in flood had been replaced.  Article states they did not think it would withstand another freshet.


Ask $100,000 For The Improvement Of The Skagit River

U.S. Engineers Report – Favorably on the Proposition to Improve Navigation on Skagit River. Will Confine Water to Main Channel

some details of Maj. Chittenden’s plan, recommends a modified plan to cost $100,000, through following to a considerable extent the plan outlined by Maj. Chittenden.  The chief obstacles to navigation in the Skagit as seen by Maj. Chittenden in his report are “the shoals at the mouth of the stream, the bad bars or shoals which interfere with low water navigation and the great quantity of driftwood and snags in the river.”  “Beginning with the junction of the north and the south forks in the delta of the river, the energy of the current is greatly dissipated by numerous channels and on the tide flats by a general dispersion of the current in all directions.”  The report favored the partial closing of the north channel to increase the current energy in the main channel by way of the south fork.  For this work Maj. Chittenden estimated a cost of $95,250.  . . .  In a previous report, April 15, 1907, he had pointed out that the total commerce on the river for 1906 reached 188,283½ tons, valued at $1,766,452.  . . .  As a result of a personal examination of the Skagit river from Sedro-Woolley to its mouth, including both north and south forks, the conclusion has been reached that the only means of securing a reliable channel or entrance to this river that will benefit existing commerce is by the construction of a dike at the mouth of the south fork, following generally the line laid down in the report of Maj. Chittenden, and by cutting off or regulating the flow through the other channels.  . . .  “The estimate is as follows:  16,000 feet of retaining dike, at $80,000; regulating dikes and mattress sill at head of north fork, $6,000; cutting off subsidiary channels at the delta, $5,000; superintendence and contingencies, 10 percent, $9,000, total $100,000.

Corps of Engineers Plan

For Improving Navigation



Several times this report recommends cutting off the flow of river water through the subsidiary channels.  The work that was carried out was further described in COE Cavanaugh Report 12/6/12 & COE Woodruff Report 10/10/19 and COE Butler Report 2/8/28.  What this strongly suggests is that it was not the farmers at least on Fir Island that blocked off the estuary flows but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Clearly this had a tremendous impact on fish.


High Water On Skagit River Break All Past Records

Fairhaven Avenue Flooded With a Foot and a Half of Water River Raises Twenty-four Feet Above Low Water Mark -- Mark—Above all Past Records

[4]Some among the oldest settlers of Skagit County are found to make the statement that never before have they seen the river rise to the marks reached during the flood, which came during the first part of the present week.  . . . At about 10 o’clock Monday night, W.H. Joyce who lives just east of town, gave the alarm by phone, announcing that the water had broken over the county road east of the Jewell place and was running down the big slough towards the east part of town which is quite timely settled.  . . .  Down at the east end of Fairhaven avenue the current was very swift and the bridge went out . . . leaving some forty people shut out in this lowest land and in a swift current of water.  . . .  Thursday was a great day in Burlington and many talked of camping on the heights Tuesday night, but the change came about noon, the water went down rapidly and Burlington has perhaps received less damage then any other town on the Skagit.  . . .  While the East Mt. Vernon dyke held good, a snapshot from the auction building on the hill at Mt. Vernon shows a sea of water from Mt. Vernon to LaConner.  Much damage was done in West Mt. Vernon and the hundreds shut in.  LaConner was underwater as well as the entire flats from LaConner to Bayview and Mt. Vernon.


USGS (Stewart) says flood 260,000 cfs at Concrete, 220,000 at Sedro-Woolley.

This article is in extremely poor condition and very hard to read.  Portions are completely unreadable.


Important to remember is that during this time period the Burlington levees were 4,000 feet west of their current location.



Water went down rapidly.  Burlington received less damage then any other town in Skagit CountyDowntown Mt. Vernon dry, everything from West Mt. Vernon to and including LaConner to Bayview underwater.


Reveille Exaggerates High Water

            (Dead in flood Skagit waters collect their toll of human life.)  The above headlines, printed in red, were the attractive features of the front page of Wednesday morning Reveille, and is perhaps of the most disgraceful lies that that paper ever published.  Following those headlines the reporter says that no dead have been reported.  He also says that Burlington is buried under from five to ten feet of water.  This is also untrue.  They also say that Burlington is sadly in need of relief and mercy work.  We hope that the Reveille will be generous enough to correct these false statements.  In the first place there is no dead in the flood, so far we have not received the report of one dead from any place along the SkagitBurlington had about one foot of water in some of the streets, and there were many buildings over the town that were not even surrounded by water.  Neither the railroad bridge south of town, or the steel bridge at Mt. Vernon is washed away.  The amount published in the Reveille on Wednesday was simply a piece of Yellow Journalism.


1909 Flood


Doesn’t sound like all of Burlington was covered in flood water in 1909 and the parts that were only had 1 foot of water in streets.  Appears 1921 flood was a larger event.


Should Build Span On Bridge

The high grade and close trestle bridge of the Great Northern Railroad South of town is in a great measure accountable for the extreme high water in the town during the recent flood.  A great drift of wood and logs, at the trestle bridge across the big slough, held the water and caused it to back up and overflow a greater part of the town.  For the safety of the town as well as for the railroad company, a long bridge span should be built at this point so as to give the drift wood and logs a chance to pass through.  If the railroad company does not do this of their own accord, the city authorities should force them to do so.  Many citizens had their homes flooded and were compelled to move out, all on account of this back up water from the above mentioned trestle bridge.  This water may seem of little importance to some, but those who have had some experience in this line think it of great importance to them.  Railroads are very necessary to our town and should always be treated courteously, but there is no reason that they should be permitted to jeopardize the lives, and comforts of our citizens.

Bridge Over Gages Slough Caused Flooding in Burlington


This article is extremely significant because it documents the tremendous amount of water and drift that used to travel through Gages Slough during flood events.


The River – Gives People of Valley another scare – Big Chinook Starts Things Doing but quits with but little damage done.

There may have been a time when a Chinook wind was not an unwelcome thing in this country, but that was a long time before November 1909.  Since then when a Chinook blows every gentleman holds his breath.  . . .  Sunday afternoon the water began to rise at the rate of about 5 inches an hour and by midnight had increased to 8 inches or more an hour.  . . .  Sunday night up valley train was stopped at Concrete on account of the bridge over Jackson creek, near Van Horn, being washed out.  . . .  In Sterling Bend where last year the G.N. tracks were moved back from the river bank, and where subsequent rises have washed away the river bonks right up to the tracks, and rock fills were made, the waters of this rise came right up and again dallied with Jim Hill’s iron.


USGS reports 114,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.  No figure for Concrete.


This would have been a flood comparable to the 1979 and 1980 flood events.




Article states there were 16 daily trains in Sedro-Woolley.


Dam building does not look too good

Several years ago The Times quit building newspaper railroads.  This was after it had learned good and well that when railroad officials got mixed up in an interview and “divulged” a lot of plans for the future, that the statement was either an explosion of overworked imagination, or was just the reverse of any real intention.  Hence, The Times is skeptical of the big dam story about what Stone & Webster are going to do on Baker river this year and immediately following.  . . .  Under the most favorable conditions the building of the Baker river dam is going to cost lots of money, and just why the Stone & Webster should begin construction work while the price of every factor to construction is abnormally high and still ascending and transportation precarious, is a mystery. 

Rumors of Baker Dam


Newspaper didn’t believe Baker dam would be built.


Heavy Rains Cause A Raging Skagit

The heavy rains of the past two weeks have caused considerable inconvenience to people living along the Skagit river.  It seemed that the high point of the raging Skagit had been reached Sunday morning when the debris dam and the Mount Vernon bridge went out, carrying a portion of the temporary trestles away.  Part of the trestle went out on Saturday, thus putting the bridge out of commission and causing those who wished to get to Mount Vernon to go around by the Avon road and come in from the north.  . . .  The river dropped Sunday and Monday, but the heavy rains of Monday night brought the river up again.  Heavy rains in the hills kept the stream up to a dangerous point and in many places the water covered the low lands.  . . .  The heavy rains of Tuesday brought raging torrents of water down the old Skagit and for the first tie in nine years the danger line was reached on Wednesday morning when a little over twenty-one feet of water was registered.  The dike broke south of town and considerable land was flooded.  However, the standstill came about noon and by Thursday morning the water had fallen to the seventeen foot mark. 




This flood does not show up in USGS or Corps records probably because it was only 1 ft. over flood stage at the current gage.  HOWEVER, it is the first time that we have documented that the infamous December 30, 1917 flood was a “double pump” flood event.  Just like the 1990, 1995 and 2003 flood events.  As we all know, the 2nd flood is always larger, and it was.  Overbank storage would have been minimal at best.


Dike broke “south of town” on this minor event.  Although subsequent articles do not mention this levee break it is highly probable that the levee was not repaired in just 10 days.


Skagit River Throws Mantle Of Flood Waters Over Ranches And Homes

The dear old Skagit Valley, the one green spot in the northwest, has been given a drenching which wrought much damage and caused considerable inconvenience to all persons, ranchers and townspeople alike.  An almost unprecedented rainfall and a Chinook wind starting last Friday in the upper part of the county caused the old timers to open their weather eyes and soon the alarm was given that a “big river” was expected.  The river began raising last Saturday morning and continued to raise all day.  Saturday night the stream was nearing the danger point.  Dikes in all parts of the valley were being taxed to their capacity and in many places efforts were being made to strengthen them.   . . .  LaConner received a full blow of the rushing waters, but aside from the loss of the bridge, some bad washouts, the little town stood up under the blow very strongly.  Mount Vernon’s business section and residence section was spared.  . . .  The Great Northern and the Interurban roads are badly hit.  For miles and miles, both north and south, the Great Northern tracks are hanging here and there like a great trestle.  In some places the road bed is washed out to a depth of six and seven feet.  The interurban tracks are badly damaged and it is not believed that traffic will be resumed between Mount Vernon and Bellingham for a least a month.  . . . 

The first intimation of danger was when advices up river were received to the effect that the water was higher on Saturday morning than it had been during the flood of 1909 and people began to prepare for a wet season.  By midnight it had reached the high point at the hospital and was still rising.  A small dike was thrown across the street with the hope of holding it, but under the strenuous protest of the property owners who would be submerged at the expense of the north end of the town the idea of keeping it back was abandoned and it was allowed to run down the main street to the Great Northern railway tracks where a breach was made and the waters allowed to spill out over the Olympia Marsh.  . . .  The loss in stock also promises to be comparatively light for the reason that the valley is so flat that a sudden rise sufficient to endanger life is almost impossible.  . . .  The Howard Fredman place has suffered the most severely of any in the immediate neighborhood of the big break.  Here the river ran mad, undermining the house and barns and plowing deep channels through the fields.  Deep holes are to be seen everywhere and across the Varney road where once were stumps there are now excavations that look like cellars.  The little station at Varney has been undermined and leans over on its sides in a decidedly disreputable manner.  The damage in the Interurban lines at this point will take weeks in repair. . . .

Sedro-Woolley has not suffered very severely except in the vicinity of the water plant.  At Sterling the damage will be considerable from the cutting up of the farms and the J.H. Hutchins place is said to be pretty badly wrecked.  Dr. Cleveland’s new home on which he has spent so much time and money is also much the worse for its experience as well as those of many others.


USGS (Stewart) reports that flood carried 220,000 cfs at Concrete and 195,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.

This is the most comprehensive article describing the impacts of a large flood on Skagit Valley.





LaConner floods, Mt. Vernon stays dry.



Railroads badly damaged.



If the water was higher upriver then in 1909 it means 1917 was larger flood.


Water diverted to Olympia Marsh would explain why flood water did not reach downtown Burlington business district.  See BJ 1/4/18 article describing this flood.


“a sudden rise sufficient to endanger life is almost impossible.”  This statement, given the tremendous development in South Burlington since 1917, would undoubtedly be false today.


Varney is what they used to call Gages Slough.  The train station used to be across the street from the Cascade Mall.


Sedro-Woolley little damage.  Sterling hard hit.


Clear Lake

At 1:30 the water started to come in the west part of town, and the people living in that part received the greater part of the water.  The water entered the mill and also the engine room where the electric dynamo is and rose so high that the mills and town was put out of order and the town was submerged in darkness until Wednesday evening.  The greatest damage done by the water in town was the washing away of sidewalks and fences.  The flood was rather mild here compared to what it would have been had not the Sterling Bend dike broke.  Although the citizens of Clear Lake sympathize with those of Burlington and vicinity they are thankful that it was not worse here.


This article unequivocally shows the impacts the levees have had on the Clear Lake area.  1917 was one of if not the most damaging flood in the 20th century, yet Clear Lake suffered only “mild” damage unlike what they suffered in the 1990 and 1995 flood events.


Boat upsets boy drowns

Little John Gruber of Clear Lake, lost his life in the flood waters of the Skagit Wednesday evening when, in company with his brother, Joe Gruber, they attempted to make their way over the waters to the ranch.  The accident happened about 6 o’clock in the evening.  Little John had come down from Clear Lake and had waited near the Clear Lake yards, close to the broken dike for his brother, who was coming in a boat from the Loveless place, where he lives with his family.

Death in 1917 Flood

Not counting the Mt. Vernon bridge tender who died from internal injuries after hitting a portion of the bridge, this makes 3 people who have been identified that died in Skagit River flood events. 


River Becomes Unmanageable


Dikes Break in a Number of Places and Let Water in Over a Large Area of Low Lands – Some Stock Is Lost;

Damage Much Less Than Anticipated;

Water Reaches High Mark at Mount Vernon Wharf Saturday Night at Twenty-three and One-half Feet – No Rail Communication With Outside World for Several Days – Boat Does Big Business


Four weeks of rains and Chinooks finally resulted in a freshet Saturday night that for a time threatened to inundate the entire valley.  The warm winds from the south melted the snows, it is said, up to the 6000-foot level and brought the combined waters of the Upper Skagit, the Sauk, Baker and numerous tributary streams down to the lower valley in greater and more continuous volume than has ever been recorded in the history of the country.

. . .

Loss Not Great As Expected

The heaviest individual losers are those individuals that were in the path of the dike breaks.  The break at Sterling Bend and that at Stevens slough immediately north of the Great Northern bridge wrought the greatest damage.  At Stevens slough a home belonging to M. Freeman was tilted over into a hole.  Dikes, county roads and railroads probably suffered the most from the recent freshet.

. . .

At Avon there was a sudden dramatic moment Sunday morning when a portion of the dike went out carrying into the swirl six men who were at work with dozens of others reinforcing the dike at this point.  Hadn’t been for an old secondary dike the Skagit would have gone through here and every foot of the flats would have been under water.  . . . A break at Magnus Anderson’s farm let the water in over a section of country about Conway.  . . . Burlington and La Conner and Edison reported water in the streets; Sedro-Woolley reported water in the neighborhood of Jamison avenue, which is some distance from the business section.  The Nookachamps low lands also were visited by the water.  Mount Vernon, on both sides of the river, was dry throughout the freshet.  The water from Sterling bend went over the Olympia marsh and the Samish.  Edison also reported a couple of feet of water.







This article describes the December 28/29, 1917 flood event.




Four weeks of rains.  No wonder flood was flood of “long duration”.  Overbank storage must have been non-existent.

Snow level only went up to 6,000-feet???  Flood definitely would have been caused by rain alone.


Dike Breaks


Sterling, Stevens Slough, Avon, ConwayBurlington, LaConner, and Edison underwater.  Mt. Vernon stayed dry.








Was water in Edison from Samish or Skagit??


Str. Swinomish Sinks in Riverside Bend


The snag boat Swinomish sank in the Skagit river in the bend below the Interurban bridge Friday after grazing the bridge pier.  Captain Fred Siegel said that in passing through the draw the boat touched the pier slightly.  The men on the main deck reported no damage; but in a few minutes it was noticed that the boat was taking water.  The pumps were immediately put to work but to no avail and the boat hit bottom with the upper works well out of water.



Friday would have been December 28, 1917 the day before the river crest.  “The upper works well out of water.”  How big was this boat?  Could be used to determine how deep river was.  Doesn’t sound like river was any deeper then than now.


mid-winter flood greatest in memory of oldest inhabitant


Valley Dikes Break in Dozen Places – Skagit Inundates lowlands – No Lives Lost – Only Few Head of Stock Drowned – Considerable Property Damaged – River Channel and Dikes Inadequate to Carry Away Surplus Water – Spillways Needed to Relieve River Channel During Flood Periods – Railroad and Interurban Communications Restored from North – Delayed Mails Received Today


One of the worst and doubtless most destructive floods known in the Skagit delta occurred last Saturday night (December 29, 1917), the river dikes giving way in eight or more places, the overflowing water covering the entire delta from Mt. Vernon to LaConner, and south from Mt. Vernon to Conway.  The island delta west of Fir escaping flood waters (Fir Island).  The McLean highway district west of Mt. Vernon was not flooded.


The tragical results were caused by the failure of a crude, imperfect, ununiform diking system that never has nor never will retain the torrents of water when a Chinook zephyr loosens the flood gates of the Cascades.  From five o’clock Saturday night, when the river was bank full, it steadily rose a foot an hour until midnight.  The water then had reached the top practically of all the dikes, and a break was inevitable somewhere or the mighty volume of water was certain to pour over the dikes, causing doubtless even greater damage in loss of property and loss of life than resulted through breaks in the dikes.  At about midnight the expected break in the dike came.  In fact there were at least ten serious washouts.  Four occurred in the Riverside bend, three across the river in the Avon district, at North Riverside, one at Freeman’s old place on the Baker River logging railway right-of-way, southeast of Burlington, one south of Mt. Vernon, and another at the Clear Lake wood yards, north of Mt. Vernon.  These artificial spillways naturally afforded an immediate outlet for the surplus water to pour through, and the river immediately began to fall, and all danger from further flood damages was past.


Building a series of ununiform dikes to protect districts here and there through the lowlands utterly fails as a solution, meaning only future disaster when the river runs riot during flood periods.  During flood periods when the river reaches the point that dikes are not adequate to control it, it overflows its banks unless other artificial means are provided to carry off the surplus water.  Government engineers, who have studied Skagit river flood problems with the view of affording relief to districts subject to overflow, declare that concrete spillways should be built to take care of the surplus water.  Improvements of this character should be maintained by the government, state and county.


Because Mt. Vernon’s big dikes kept it dry, or Burlington is so fortunately situated that it does not require a system of dikes to protect it from floods is mighty poor consolation to the people of the delta districts threatened with overflow and devastation every recurring flood,. . .


December 29, 1917 Flood Event







Fir Island didn’t flood in the 1917 flood?







Diking system not uniform.






Ten dike breaks after midnight. 










Dikes should be uniform and have spillways built into them.  (Overtopping Levees)









Burlington doesn’t need dikes?  Probably because at that time Burlington city limits was at least 1 mile north of Gages Slough.    Did Mt. Vernon raise its dikes after 1909 flood?


Flood Notes


            The Howard Freeman farm at Varney station was quite seriously damaged by the overflow caused by the break in the river dike on the old Freeman farm east of Varney.  Mr. Freeman’s fine new home and barn were damaged in some-extent.  The break in the river at the old Freeman farm, which was probably 800 feet in width, caused serious damage to the farms in the path of the overflow.  The break occurred when the river was at the highest point, the water stretched over a territory of about 2500 feet in width, carrying away the Great Northern and interurban highways, undermining the dwelling and carrying away the barn on the old Freeman farm, and covering the land with piles of drift wood.  The water found an outlet in the bay near Whitney.

            During the height of the flood Sunday morning a foot of water from the overflow of the river from the east covered a small portion of the residence and business districts of Burlington, the water flowing out that night when the river fell.  On account of poor drainage and inadequate sewerage, there is still some water in the low places in some of the districts, which will soon all pass into the drains.

            The loss of property on the Higginbottom farm south of Burlington (the old Freman place) was serious.  When the dike broke the house was undermined, the barn and sheds carried away, and the land covered with large-quantities of logs.  The owner had only one cow which was saved.

            The Mussor, Wakley and Lamphier farms were all in the path of the Higginbottom break and the owners were serious losers.

            The Mt. Vernon Herald says the breaking of the dike at Higginbottom’s saved Burlington.  What an idiotic untruth.  Why not Mt. VernonBurlington is protected by no diking system.  It is so fortunately situated that it does not need dikes to protect it from river overflow.  The truth is, and why not be honest, that the diking system maintained on the Skagit river was inadequate to control the Skagit river, a break somewhere was inevitable, and shortly after midnight it came down at a dozen different places.  Undoubtedly these breaks saved the dikes from giving away at other places.  The water had reached the top of practically every dike in Skagit county when the breaks occurred.  Flood damages were generally distributed throughout the lowlands.  Unfortunately neither the districts directly to Mt. Vernon, Burlington nor any other Skagit County town escaped inconvenience or losses.  Burlington had mail, daily newspapers, telegraph and telephone communications from the north and telephone communications from the south at all times.  The editor of the Mt. Vernon Herald should confine himself to fact and truth.  Why not give his readers the interesting story of the need of a gasoline engine to pump water out of the basement of the county courthouse.  At least this is better than lying about a neighboring town.



Varney Station was located next to Gages Slough on Old 99 (Burlington Blvd.)








Eastern Fairhaven covered with one foot of water.  Water gone that night.





Must locate where Higginbottom farm was.





Burlington has no diking system!  They must mean Burlington proper.  Dike on Fairhaven must have been outside city limits.


Water reached the top of the dikes.




Burlington “is so fortunately situated that it does not need dikes to protect it from river overflow.”  Really?  While this statement is clearly not appropriate today it is strongly suggestive that flood waters from the 1909 and 1917 floods did not reach downtown Burlington west of the BNSF railroad tracks.

Doesn’t look like Burlington Journal editor and Mt. Vernon Herald liked each other.


Flood waters are receding

The flood waters of the Skagit valley are gradually receding and in a short time, the rancher will be able to walk upon that which he calls ground and view the results of a vicious Skagit river.

            Individuals are now counting up their losses.  Estimates of the aggregate loss to farmers, householders, the county and state in roads and bridges, and to the public service corporations are largely guesswork.  The real loss will never be computed.  It is large, probably larger than that caused by the freshet of eight years ago.  . . .  Reports from all points of the valley show that more or less water and damage was the result of the freshet.  Roads everywhere are in bad shape and will require a good deal of money to put them all back in a passable condition.  The county is badly hit and the commissioners in session this week decided to review the county roads and put them in shape at the earliest possible date. 




Flood damages more than 1909 flood.  Again, this strongly suggest that the 1917 flood was the larger then the flood of 1909.


Are the dikes a failure?

Are the dikes a failure?  If so, what is the remedy?  These two questions have agitated the minds of hundreds of ranchers in the Skagit Valley during the past week since the old Skagit river ran amuck again.  In the end, when the enormous flood waters of the river come down upon the community, dikes are found to be weak, and the result is as shown by the flood of last week.  What is the remedy?  Much money has been spent in making dikes and in the end, practically nothing has been gained.  . . .  The remedy is believed to be found in the construction of spillways.  Several plans and suggestions have been made during the week, but this matter, being of such enormous proportions, will require more than talk to get something started.  . . .  It has been nine years since a flood came.  It may be nine years again and it may be next year.  Don’t wait until it comes again.  There is too much valuable land in this valley to wait until a disastrous flood has overtaken it again and again.  Now is the time to plan the remedy. 





Recommended “spillways” or over-topping levees.






“Now is the time to plan the remedy.”


River Floods Roads and Farms; Latest Reports Receding

The warm wind last Sunday filled the river with melted snow from the mountains and caused it to overflow its banks in several places.  The road between Sedro-Woolley and Hamilton was under water in several places, many autos getting stuck when trying to ford.  The river was so high that the Lyman and Skiyou ferries have not been running for several days.  A number of farms near Hamilton were flooded, and the creek along the road is bank-high and washing away its banks.  It is thought that the main channel has been somewhat filled, and that unless something is done the creek will continue to carry more water.  The water was not high enough to damage crops.


First documentation of a summer flood.  Based on the damage reported it appears to be in the neighborhood of the January 12, 1928 flood.




berry growing is given big boost in skagit county

The berry-growing industry in Skagit County will be given a big boost as the result of an arrangement made by the Q.A.Q. Warehouse Company of Mount Vernon with one of the largest canning companies in the state.  The Mount Vernon company is authorized to enter into contracts for the planting of 500 acres of land in Skagit County to berries of various sorts, and to contract for the crop of berries for five years at a minimum price that will net the grower from $250 to $500 per acre, the price to be subject to increase whenever justified by market conditions.    The land in the Skagit Valley is said to be particularly suitable for the growing of berries and small fruits, and the nation-wide market that has been built up during the past few years confers upon this valley an opportunity that at present is realized by very few people.

Agricultural History


Berry growing finds its roots in Skagit County. 




fish hatchery at baker lake stops work for winter

Foreman Joe Kemmerick of the Baker Lake fish hatchery came into town Thursday with the news that work at the hatchery had been stopped for the winter and all extra men laid off.  Only enough men will be retained at the fisheries station to look after the eggs in the hatchery building and care for to property at the lake. …  These men will keep things moving until the weather moderates in the spring, when the full crew will again be put to work running the station and rebuilding the plant destroyed by fire last summer.  During the severe cold last month Baker Lake was frozen over and work at the sawmill stopped because logs could not be towed across the lake to operate the mill.    The men now at the hatchery will have a considerable job on their hands in about a month, when about two and a half million eggs now being eyed at the lake will have to be carried out and shipped to the Birdsview hatchery, where they will be hatched.  These will have to be packed out on horses, with the trail at its worst.    It will require about eight trips with the pack train to carry out all the eggs to be sent to Birdsview.

Fish Issue


Fish hatchery on Baker Lake.  Began construction in 1898.  Was operated by the federal government.  Carried out the sockeye and steelhead fry by horseback. 



seattle to build state hatchery on upper river

C.F. Uhden, engineer in charge of the Seattle power project on the upper Skagit, has notified the state fish commissioner that the city will construct a state fish hatchery on the Skagit.  The city is required to build fishways over all its power dams to permit salmon to reach spawning grounds or build a hatchery.  As there will be five large power dams in the completed unity the city has decided to build the hatchery. … It is believed that a site near the first dam will be selected.  The hatchery will cost between $10,000 and $15,000, and will be the thirty-ninth in the state, which gives this state the largest number of any state in the United States.

Fish Issue


Seattle City Light was supposed to build a state ran fish hatchery on the Upper Skagit. 


This is further evidence which strongly suggest that the fish made it past Newhalem.  38 fish hatchery’s existed in the State of Washington in 1920.



money available for improvement of skagit river

Letters received in Mount Vernon this week from Congressman Lin H. Hadley carry the information that the war department engineers have approved the proposed improvement work on the lower Skagit River, and that the appropriation of $30,000 made by congress last year for this work is immediately available.    The war department also requires the filing of a bond protecting the government against claims for damages on account of the work done, which is now being prepared, and as soon as this is filed the work of improving the river will be started. … The work to be taken up under the appropriation calls for the dredging of the channel from the mouth of the river to Mount Vernon, or further is required, and the building of retaining walls where needed.    There has been no money spent on the Skagit River for several years, and it is reported that parts of the lower river are almost closed to navigation.  The work to be undertaken at this time will re-open the river and make it navigable for small steamers the year round.

Flood Control – Dredging


Needed bond to protect government from damages due to flood control work.  No evidence the work was ever done.


No money spent on flood control for “several years”.


will improve river at once


Commercial Club Hears Officially of Government’s $30,000 Appropriation for Work


. . . $30,000 was available for the improvement of the lower Skagit river.  This appropriation was made by congress last year.  According to a letter received by John Kill, chairman of the club’s river committee from Congressmen Lin H. Hadley, the federal engineers have approved the work.  . . .  The work to be taken up under the appropriation calls for the dredging of the Skagit channel from the mouth up the Skagit channel from the mouth up at least as far as Mount Vernon and the building of retaining walls where needed.






Corps waiting on release from damages from lower valley farmers.


Approved dredging river from mouth to Mt. Vernon.  Cost was $45,000 to $60,000.



filings made on new power sites in upper valley

Further development of the power resources of the upper Skagit Valley was indicated this week by the filing of two new locations of water rights on the upper river. … The filings this week were made by Chas. Freeman, who made the original locations on the Seattle project.  He has not stated what interests he is representing, but said definitely that development work on the new locations would be started within a comparatively short time.    One of the water right locations is on the Cascade River, in the Washington national forest, about five miles from Marblemount.  This is capable of developing about 10,000 horsepower.  The other site is one the Skagit River some distance below the Seattle power plant, being only about two miles from Marblemount, and it is estimated that at least 20,000 horsepower can be developed at this point.

Dam Building Proposed


Dams at the Faber site and the Cascade River being looked at.



filings made on new power sites in upper valley

Further development of the power resources of the upper Skagit Valley was indicated this week by the filing of two new locations of water rights on the upper river. … The filings this week were made by Chas. Freeman, who made the original locations on the Seattle project.  He has not stated what interests he is representing, but said definitely that development work on the new locations would be started within a comparatively short time.    One of the water right locations is on the Cascade River, in the Washington national forest, about five miles from Marblemount.  This is capable of developing about 10,000 horsepower.  The other site is one the Skagit River some distance below the Seattle power plant, being only about two miles from Marblemount, and it is estimated that at least 20,000 horsepower can be developed at this point.

Dam Building Proposed


Dams at the Faber site and the Cascade River being looked at.



new camp at faber is ready to begin shipping out logs

The new logging camp at Faber, recently opened by the Faber Logging Company, with Robt. Nestos of this city as manager has practically completed all preliminary work and everything is now lined up to begin shopping logs within the next few days.    The biggest job to be done, before logging could be started was the building of a railroad track three quarters of a mile in length from Faber spur to the timber.    The main camp near Faber station is becoming quite a settlement, the camp buildings are still of a temporary character, but these will all be replaced by substantial frame structures before winter.

Logging History


It would be interesting to try and find this logging camp today.



mayor of seattle makes first visit to skagit project

Mayor Hugh M. Caldwell of Seattle passed through here Thursday on his way to the upper Skagit Valley for his first visit to the site of the city of Seattle’s hydro-electric power plant on the upper river.    He was accompanied by A.H. Dimock, city engineer; C.F. Uhden, special engineer in charge of the project, and J.D. Ross, superintendent of the Seattle light department.  The inspection trip will include not only the work already done on the initial development at Gorge Creek, for which an appropriation of $5,500,000 has been made by the Seattle City council, but also the proposed development at Ruby Creek, said by engineers to be the key to the entire project, if the water power resources of the upper Skagit are to be utilized to the limit of their possibilities.  A survey of the Ruby Creek section is soon to be made to determine the feasibility of the proposed construction and its probable cost.  Estimates on tentative plans give the approximate cost of the completed project as $55,000,000.

Gorge Dam


Mayor of Seattle looked at Gorge Dam construction and proposed site of Ross Dam.



seattle mayor is pleased by visit to skagit project

The mayor expressed himself as greatly impressed with the magnitude of the Skagit project and the wonderful possibilities for greater development, particularly mentioning the splendid sites for power dams at Diablo Canyon and Ruby Creek, where natural conditions apparently make it possible to construct great dams on foundations of solid rock in narrow gorges.  He stated that one of the questions under consideration by the engineers has to do with the type of dam to be constructed at Gorge Creek.  It has been found possible to construct a low diversion dam at Gorge Creek and a high impounding dam a half mile farther down the stream.  The diversion dam would be less expensive, but the impounding dam would develop greater power.  So far the only actual construction work has been done at Gorge Creek, where a sawmill has been erected and material is being assembled for the erection of the plant.  Test borings are also being made at the Diablo and Ruby sites.

Diablo and Ross Dam


Ruby Creek Dam was later named Ross Dam. 


Only “test borings” had been done at Diablo and Ross.



big cannery plant at burlington is ready to operate

The first unit of Burlington’s $50,000 modern canning plant is practically completed and ready for the opening of the canning season.  The main building was completed some time ago, and the finishing touches are now being put on the brick structure to be used as an engine and boiler room.  The interior woodwork has been painted during the past week, and all the machinery for the plant is on the ground and is being rapidly installed.  The plant is modern in every respect, and is so built that it can be conveniently enlarged as its business increases.  The company backing the plant has contracted sufficient acreage of fruit and vegetables to practically assure steady operation throughout the season. … New canning plants are also being constructed in Sedro-Woolley and Mount Vernon, and it is expected that both will be completed in time for operation during the 1920 season.  The canning plants of the lower valley will undoubtedly prove a large factor towards stimulating the fruit and berry growing industry in this county, as they assure a steady and sure market for prospective growers.

Agricultural History


New cannery in Burlington to process fruits and vegetables.


Canneries also planned for Mt. Vernon and Sedro-Woolley.



tide land acreage near anacortes to be reclaimed

To change twelve thousand acres of overflowed tide lands into tillable farms is the aim of a number of Anacortes business men who recently formed a company known as the Padilla Bay Development company. This company has purchased from the state of Washington about 12,000 acres of tidelands in the Padilla bay district, near Anacortes, the lands lying between Samish and the mouth of the Swinomish slough, and including Saddlebag and Hat islands. The diking and draining of this tract will be one of the biggest reclamation projects ever undertaken in this part of the state, but the plan is said to be simple and entirely feasible. Surveys and plans are now being made, and the reclamation dikes will be under construct within a few weeks.  When the reclamation work is completed the company expects to subdivide the tract into small farms, which will be sold to actual settlers.

Padilla Bay Development


Tidelands to be developed into small farms.



record rainfall does great damage in county

The heavy rains which have been almost continuous from September 10 until Thursday this week have broken all rainfall records for the county for this season of the year, and have caused great damage to crops in Skagit and Whatcom counties.  It is estimated that the damage to oats, potatoes and late fruits in the two counties will exceed half a million dollars. … The Skagit River has been at almost flood stage for several weeks, but no direct damage from the high water has been reported. Near Mount Vernon some of the dikes were threatened for a few days the first of the week when several small breaks occurred, but the dikes were repaired before any damage was done.

Rain For Almost 30 Days.


Fails to produce large flood although Skagit stayed just below flood stage for several weeks. 



work is rushed on temporary plant on upper skagit

The city of Seattle voted Monday to appropriate an additional $175,000 for the hydro-electric power project on the upper Skagit River, and it is stated that the major part of the appropriation will be used for the completion of the temporary power plant which is now being built near the mouth of Newhalem creek.  With the completion of the temporary electric plant, all the preliminary work will be about, completed, and everything will be ready to being actual construct work on the main project, and it is expected the work on the huge dam will be started by early summer.  Although it takes considerable time to make much of a showing on a project of the magnitude of that undertaken on the upper Skagit, the progress made so far is very satisfactory, and it is likely that by this time next year the big dams and the main power plant will be well underway. But even at the present rate of progress it will be several years before the first unit is ready for use.

Gorge Dam


Temporary power plant at Newhalem.  Diablo and Ross not yet under construction.


I.                    pacific highway is said to be flooded

High water has broken the dike at Milltown and flooded the Pacific highway so that for some days automobiles have been unable to pass at high tide. At other times a Ford helps to pull the cars through.  . . .  The new Nookachamps bridge on the inland highway will be completed in about ten days and the new approach on the south side of the Riverside bridge will be complete in about two weeks, according to County Engineer Frank Gilkey. The traffic, at present is going to Mt. Vernon by way of Clear Lake, while this bridge is closed.


Highwater broke the dike at Milltown and cars unable to use road at high tide.  This is the only article describing this event.  Not listed on USGS or Corps flood list.


Bridge over Nookachamps just about done.



contract let for track extension by city of seattle

The board of public works of the city of Seattle last week awarded the contract for the construction of a railroad track from the Newhalem camp, on the old Dohne homestead, to the Gorge creek dam site, a distance of 2.65 miles, to the Grant Smith Company on its bid of $94,923.25.    With the transportation line about completed, the board of public works took the first steps towards furnishing the rolling stock needed to operate the city’s railway system.

Railroad Construction


Newhalem to Gorge Creek dam site.



skagit bay diking project shown up by state engineer

The Skagit Bay diking project, which has been extensively advertised, and under which it was proposed to reclaim 9,300 acres of land at Skagit Bay near the mouth of the Skagit River, was inspected recently by E. M. Chandler, chief engineer of the Washington State Reclamation service and Prof. S. J. Sievers of the Washington State College. These men made a personal survey of the entire district, and in a report, filed with the state board say that, the plan is impracticable and infeasible. It is shown that the location of the lands and the character of the tides would require exceptionally high and strong dikes, and that the cost would be more than $260 per acre for diking, with the engineers believing that in several parts of the district successful diking would be impossible. Owing to the character of the land, expensive pumping plants would be needed to keep off seepage, and this expense would add much to the cost per acre.

Padilla Bay Development Kyboshed


Plan to “recover” 9,300 acres of tidelands called impracticable and infeasible. 


Successful diking of the Bay called “impossible”.





anacortes has a reminder of the johnstown flood

A little trickle at first, a runlet, a break, a roaring torrent, and then a wall of water rolled down from Cranberry lake to the Sound, when a portion of the dam gave way and a million tons of water swept down the half mile from the dam to tidewater, carrying dirt, gravel, boulders and logs with it, cutting great gashes in the hillside, destroying roads and burying the railway tracks and foreshore beneath thousands of tons of debris. The break began early Monday evening, and at 8 o’clock 500 yards of Oakes avenue, Anacortes, below the lake was under a deep flood - a veritable Niagara was falling with terrific force and noise down the final drop of a hundred feet over the bluff to the beach below. One home, almost in the path of the flood, was abandoned, the owner with his life and baby taking to the sea in a skiff, Watchmen in the fisheries plants were imprisoned in the buildings; others attempted to keep the water out of their homes. In a few hours the flood crest had passed, but still thousands of tons of water was tumbling down the heights as the lake emptied itself, and it was not until Tuesday morning that stock could be taken of the damage.    Cranberry lake was originally a pond of a few acres in extent and many years ago furnished much of the water supply for Anacortes, when a small wooden dam was built across the outlet. Later this dam was made higher, but it was not until about 20 years ago that any serious attempt was made to utilize the waters of the pond, and for emergency purposes only, and on but few occasions was the water ever turned into the city system. This was usually in big salmon years when the canneries were using millions of gallons of water monthly right in the dry season.

Anacortes Flood


Cranberry Lake dam fails and floods Oakes Avenue. 


Cranberry Lake furnished water supply to City of Anacortes around turn of the 20th century.



seattle officials inspect work at skagit power site

A party of Seattle city officials passed through this city Tuesday on their way to the site of the city of Seattle’s power project on the upper Skagit River.    The Seattle power project has been under fire in that city for several weeks, claims being made that all plans so far are indefinite and that the plant will cost more than it will be worth to the city. An organized effort is being made to get the council to drop the project entirely, or at least suspend operations until conditions are more favorable for construction work. There also appears to be a wide difference of opinion as to the character of dam to be built, and in regard to the size of the first unit. The city has already spent approximately $5,000,000 in building a railroad from Rockport to the site of the project at this stage would result in the total loss of practically all the money already spent, it is not likely that work will be discontinued.

City of Seattle Having Doubts About Dam Projects


Alleged that power projects would cost more then they would be worth.  Imagine how different our states history would have been if those “doubts” would have prevailed.



drainage project in lower valley is biggest in county

After being four years in process of formation, the biggest drainage projects ever planned in the Skagit County, and one of the biggest on the Pacific coast is now rapidly taking shape, and the first hearing on the project will be held before the board of the county commissioners early in July. More than 15,000 acres of rich farm land are included in the area to be drained, and the work of constructing the main and lateral ditches, building dams and out flow gates, with the necessary machinery, will require and expenditure of more than $750,000.    The main ditch will start west of Burlington, near the hill on the Knutzen farm, and run southerly through the lands of the Conner Land company to North Avon. From there it runs westerly through the low lands near Fredonia and on to empty into the slough at Whitney. When completed thousands of acres of what is now practically waste land will be reclaimed and made highly productive. It is estimated that it will take several years to finish the work.

Drainage Project


This project is still visible and the argument could certainly be made that it enabled “thousands of acres of wasteland” to become highly productive farmland.



county may take steps to protect baker river banks

At the regular meeting of the board of county commissioners held in Mount Vernon this week a petition was presented signed by a large number of residents of this city and vicinity, asking that the county take steps to protect the banks of the Baker river adjacent to this city to prevent the washing away of valuable land. It was shown to the commissioners that large areas of land had been washed away on both banks of the river within the past few years, and that along the west bank the loss has already been extremely heavy, and that there is danger of another heavy cut whenever a freshet occurs.    The plan generally proposed for the protection of the west bank calls for the construction of a wing dam just below the shingle bolt pocket of the Baker River Lumber company, of sufficient length to turn the current of the river back into the old channel. The river now makes a sharp turn to the west just below the pocket and it is believed that a wing dam of sufficient power to turn the stream back can be built at comparatively small cost. The opening of the old channel of the river will also relieve the east bank of the stream and it is believed that the wing dam on the west bank will also stop all cutting along the east side.

Baker River Bank Protection


Large areas of land washed away on both the right and left banks of the Baker River.


This article strongly suggest that the “mouth” of the Baker might have been relocated to its present location from where it was in 1921.


big meeting to be held to plan drainage district – land owners to discuss draining problems – thousands of acres to be drained, if plans are carried out; to meet at commercial club

. . .  The Sedro-Woolley Commercial club extends an invitation to all people interested in this drainage scheme to attend the meeting which will be held at the club rooms on Metcalf street. At this meeting the boundaries if the drainage district will be decided. The district, it is planned, will embrace all of the territory from Minkler creek to Austin, and from the Skagit river to the foot of the hill on the north.  . . .

Drainage District Planned


Minkler Creek to Austin and from Skagit River to foot of Dukes Hill.



temporary plant on upper skagit is now completed

According to a statement issued by C. F. Uhden, engineer in charge of the construction of the power plant for the city of Seattle on the upper Skagit, the temporary plant was built on Newhalem creek, several miles below the main plant, and is now being used to light the houses and streets of Newhalem, the new town in the upper valley. Later it will be used to furnish power and lighting for the construction of the huge dam at Gorge creek and the first unit of the plant two miles below the dam site, as well as for the 11,000 foot tunnel connecting these two parts of the development.    The work of building the extension of the railroad from Newhalem to Gorge creek, a distance of four miles, is going ahead rapidly, and the first two miles of the extension is now about completed. The end of the road is now at Devil’s Elbow, where a bridge will be built across the Skagit River; work on the bridge being now well underway.

Newhalem Gets Electricity


Temporary power plant completed.



It is believed that the “Devils Elbow” reference actually referred to the “Devils Bend” area as no bridge was built at Devils Elbow until the 1950’s.  Devils Bend being located Near Newhalem and Devils Elbow being located at Concrete.


Skagit River Causes Flood

Skagit valley has been in the grip of a flood for the past week.  Torrential rains and strong southerly winds, amounting to gales at times, preceded the onrush of waters from the melting snow of the Cascade mountains, that came pouring down the Skagit river in a volume that almost equaled that of the memorable flood of 1909, when the river rose to 26 feet 4 inches, just 1½ inches higher than the present flood measured.  . . .  The first break occurred at McKay’s place, Burlington.  The low lying land was soon covered with water.  On Tuesday morning the scene north of the city was one broad expanse of water, with dwelling houses, barns, hay stacks, fences and trees standing in it.  From 3 to 6 feet of water was recorded in this section of the flood area, the lower floors of the houses being flooded, and the inhabitants taking to the second story.  The flood waters reached as far west as Avon.  At the North Fork near Conway the next break was reported.  This break caused the flooding of Conway, Milltown, Stanwood and the Skagit delta.  The whole region from Mount Vernon to Sylvana is all under flood waters.  The highway both north and south of the city is impassable for anything but boats.  . . .  A number of houses between here and Burlington were reported to have been lifted from their foundations and otherwise damaged by the flood.    The most serious reported damage was to the home of Lee Davis whose home floated off its foundation and broke in two.  . . .  The Great Northern railway has been out of service since Monday evening, but the company expects to have trains running again in a day or so.  . . .  The Interurban weathered the storm and flood pretty well.  While regular service was interrupted, they managed to get one or more cars through every day.  By today (Thursday) they expect to be running all trains on time table schedule, and have stages to Everett running Friday.  Travel was interrupted by the washing out of a bridge just out of the city limits and damage to the bridge over Varney slough.  . . .  The dikes held fine and had not the water risen to such a high point, there would have been little or no damage.  Below town, the dikes were patrolled by hundreds of men and it was only after the water had risen to an overflow, that the men deserted their posts and hastened to notify their neighbors that the water was coming.  Burlington was the first place to get wet, a break in the dike causing the water to invade the “Hub City.”  An heroic effort was made to prevent the break.  . . .  While the losses are many, yet they are mostly small.  The main losses are where lands were cut into, stored products damaged, and some losses of livestock.  It is believed, however, that the total losses will aggregate around $50,000, which with the lumber company losses, will approximate a hundred thousand or maybe more for this section of Skagit county.



USGS (Stewart) 240,000 cfs Concrete, 210,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley.

At Mt. Vernon 1½  inches lower than 1909.  26.4 feet would be 34.4 feet at current gage.  3 feet lower than 1990 and 1995.

1st break in levees at Burlington but floodwaters only reached as far west as Avon.














Bridge over Gages Slough washed out.  Again showing tremendous amounts of water that flow in this area.






Losses expected to only be around $100,000.





Skagit River Floods Valley When Dikes Go--Much Damage To Farms And Some Stock Lost-- Dikes Gave Way Early Tuesday At 24 Ft 10 Inches

            Once more after 4 years of somewhat peaceful action the Skagit River late Monday night and early Tuesday morning, broke its bounds and inundated a large part of its fertile valley, with a heavy loss to the farmers, an estimate of which is impossible at this time. No fatalities have been reported but some very narrow escapes from the flood waters occurred.  . . .         Three days of heavy rains and warm rains beginning their work Friday, melted the snows in the upper Skagit region and as a result, the Skagit River began its rise with startling rapidity, reaching a point Sunday night which caused alarm to be spread over the valley and the residents of the lower lands prepared to move.  . . .           The river continued to rise until it reached a mark of 24 feet 10 inches, or two inches below that set in 1909.  This was late Monday night.  Then came reports of a break in the dike in Burlington and soon after the dike at Conway south of here broke.  Both these town were flooded.  About 4:30 Tuesday morning, the dike near Charles Wiles place, a short distance west from Riverside Bridge and on the south bank of the river went through.  Within a few hours the flats between the bridge and Mt. Vernon were covered with several feet of water.  Other breaks occurred at intervals south of Mt. Vernon at Pritchard’s, two below the Sheriffs place and two on the north fork.  With the breaking of the dikes the river began to drop slightly.  . . .  Pioneers recall that only once have the flood waters of the Skagit reached the downtown streets of Mt. Vernon and this was in 1897.  Other floods have occurred in 1906, 1909, 1911, and January, 1918.[5]

12/12/21 Flood Event






Three days of heavy rains.




24 ft 10 inches would be approx. 32 ft 10 inches at the current gage.  Two inches below 1909 flood.  USGS says 141,000 cfs at Mt. Vernon for 1921.  No figure for 1909.





Only time downtown Mt. Vernon went underwater was 1897?  Also went underwater in 1894.

12/15/21 Argus

Urges Action to Stop Floods


C.F. Williams of Big Seed Company Calls for Positive Prevention


I think, in fact know, and there are few who do not think as I do, that it is a pitiable shame and an unnecessary condition, for the good people of this section of Washington to be called upon to look forward to flood waters about every so often; a sort of periodical threat to wipe out many homes, destroy farms and livestock.

. . .

From what I can learn, folks who buy here after an investigation of climate, resources and local peculiarities, are not surprised when a flood is predicted; they do not get overly excited when a warning is sent forth that the dike here, or the dike there is in a weakened condition and likely to break.  They take it as a matter of course, and even smile while it may mean, and in dozens of cases does mean almost total loss to them of this world’s goods.  I admire their spirit and their nerve, but I do not understand or admire their patience.


This periodic inundation of soil and destruction of property, to say nothing about the uneasiness of mind and loss to merchants and others, is unnecessary, and ought not to be tolerated any longer than it is required to find a solution and put it into execution!


Mr. Meehan has his idea of how the water may be controlled.  On the map he pointed it out to us.  Whether it is feasible, possible or the best thing to do I am not prepared to say – but this I do truly believe: If there is no way to control this condition which prevails when a warm wind and much rain hits soft snow in the foothills and lower mountain regions, it will be one of the very few problems the Yankee mind has failed to solve!




Great letter to the editor.  Should be reprinted and made required reading for all public officials and citizens.


















Meehan was the County Engineer.  Although his plan is not identified here it is believed that “his plan” would have been the Avon Bypass as by this time he would have been talking to Herzog who worked for the GNRR who published his report in 1922.


Auto Traffic Halted


Burlington cannot be reached by machine at this time, reports state, even the Avon detour being impassable.

Burlington was underwater during the 1921 flood due to levee breaks.


big flood inundates skagit valley


The Skagit lowland region is passing through another memorable flood period.  In consequence of which thousands of dollars of property have been destroyed in the path of the flood.  Six weeks of excessive rains, followed last Sunday night till Monday noon by compelling Chinook breezes at the beginning of which the Skagit River was ban full, opened the flood gates in the foothills, and mountains of water poured out to the sea, inundating the greater portion of the valley of the Skagit.  The last crushing flood disaster, which inundated the valley of the Skagit occurred January 1, 1918.[6]  The widespread destruction wrought then, if estimated in dollar losses, doubtless greater than that caused by the flood of last Tuesday.


The present diking system, so faultily constructed, useless and inadequate, never has nor could control flood waters when built on the banks of the river.  . . .  Doubtless a diked in basin a mile wide could function, safeguarding the delta region when flood waters pour to the sea.


Monday night, December 12, the dikes east and southeast of Burlington broke.  Tuesday morning at six o’clock the flood water covered Fairhaven Avenue, and in part the residence districts of the city.  At this time the entire lowlands lying east, west, south and in part northwest of Burlington were inundated.  The depth of water is on relative, the lamentable fact being that the area of low lands covered with water was wide-spread.  That certain spots escaped water, neither lessons the flood evil nor removes its threatening menace as the destruction wrought during the last three recurring flood periods of 1909, 1917 and 1921 encompass a wide area of lowlands, some districts suffering greater damages than others, the river in its flood course to the sea, evidently changing or seeking an outlet wherever river dikes could first be swept away.  . . .  While flood damages in Burlington have been large, the flood waters disappeared from the principal business and residence streets within 12 hours following the overflow.


The damage to the Great Northern and interurban right-of-ways was not nearly as great as that caused by the flood of 1918[7], yet the main line of the Great Northern will not be repaired until late next week.  The main line of the interurban and the Sedro-Woolley branch are in operation and the Great Northern Sedro-Woolley Rockport branch of the Great Northern will be in operation by Saturday.

12/12/21 Flood Event



Six weeks of excessive rains.  Skagit Argus reported 1917 flood was caused by 4 weeks of excessive rains. 



Most interesting.  1917 flood caused more damage than 1921 flood.  Stewart said 1921 flood was larger.  No doubt both flood events impacted by major portions of overbank storage being used up before flood started.

Suggested channel be widened to a mile wide.


According to statement at end of article this must have been the most eastern section of Fairhaven as it states “flood waters disappeared from the principal business and residence streets within 12 hours following the overflow.”









Further evidence 1921 flood not as bad as 1917 flood.



heavy damage was caused by floods in lower valley

Reports reaching here from Sedro-Woolley, Mount Vernon, Burlington and other points in the western end of the county are to the effect that the flood damage in that section will mount to several million dollars.  Dikes along the lower Skagit, from Burlington west, broke in many places and thousands of acres of farm lands were flooded.  Many dwelling houses and barns were swept from their foundations and hundreds of head of livestock drowned.  Many of the residents of the flooded districts had narrow escapes when the dikes gave way, but so far as known no lives were lost.  At Hamilton the entire town was covered with water to a depth of from three to seven feet, the water entering every business house in town.  Sidewalks were washed away and considerable inconvenience and small damage caused the residents, but no heavy losses are reported.  Lyman and Sedro-Woolley were above the flood mark, but many losses are reported from the adjacent farming communities.    Breaking of dikes near Riverside flooded the entire flats from Mount Vernon to Edison and LaConner, and it is in this district that the greatest loss was caused.  The communities of Conway and Stanwood also suffered heavily from the high waters when dikes near Stanwood gave way.    Several farm residences near Burlington were swept away, the occupants being reached by rowboats.

December 12, 1921 Flood Event


Hamilton covered with water from three to seven feet.  Very much like it was in 2003.




Mr. And Mrs. Perry Harding, of Sauk, have taken up their residence in the Janson cottage here, coming here after the flood waters of the Sauk and Skagit rivers drove them to spend a day and night in box cars on the Great Northern track. The waters of the Sauk completely covered the track to a depth of several inches, having risen to the greatest height ever known at that place.

December 12, 1921 Flood Event


Sauk River Flood Waters


Flood waters at “greatest height ever known”.



skagit river goes on wild rampage; light damage here

After being on its good behavior for four years, the Skagit River went on a rampage again Monday, and when the flood reached its crest at midnight Monday night it was found that the highest mark in the history of Concrete had been reached.  The steady rain of Saturday and Sunday brought the river to flood stage Sunday night, and it was then feared that the river would go over its banks before midnight.  The weather turned colder in the evening, and by midnight the river was at a standstill, and by morning had fallen about 18 inches.  Early Monday forenoon the rain started again, accompanied by a Chinook wind, and the Skagit soon began to rise rapidly again, reaching its greatest height about midnight.    In Crofoot addition only three residences remained above the high water mark, the water being to a depth of an inch to 14 inches in the others.    The damage caused in this vicinity and throughout the upper valley was considerably less than during the flood of four years ago, except at Sauk, although the water was almost two feet higher than in 1917.    At Sauk the water was from four to six feet deep in the store and residences, and the total loss is heavy.    There is some argument as to whether this flood was higher than that of 1909, but the general opinion seems to be that it was just as high or a few inches higher than the mark reached that year.

December 12, 1921 Flood Event



Double-pump event with floods only being two days apart.


Crofoot addition water was one to 14 inches deep with only three residences remaining above flood waters.


Floodwaters as deep or a little higher then 1909 flood.

12/22/21 Argus

Cold Adds to Flood Damage


County Commissioner J.Z. Nelson Says Loss More Than Half Million


Following close on the heels of the high water which last Tuesday flooded a large area of the fertile Skagit Valley, has come a week of extremely cold weather at least for this country.


J.Z. Nelson, member of the board of county commissioners, said yesterday that at first he had placed the amount of damage done to the ranchers, county property, and railroads at about a half million dollars…


East Burlington perhaps shows the most damage from the high water where the river overflowed Fairhaven avenue.  W.H. Walker’s house on the south side of the avenue was overturned and split into two.  Mr. Walker was in the house at the time.  The force of the concussion turned his bed over, throwing him into about three feet of water.  He was rescued in a boat after several hours waiting and calling for help.  …


Train service over the Great Northern was resumed last night and the mail and freight will be received with somewhat more regularity.  …


No action has been taken yet by the various diking districts toward repairing the dikes, nor have any meetings been called to discuss future work.  Many farmers are talking of calling mass meetings to talk over the question of proper protection from floods and many different theories as to what should be done are being talked about on the street corners.  Many favor the building of a spillway from the Avon bend to salt water in Padilla bay, while others say that to straighten the river at the Avon bend by cutting a channel through from south of Burlington to a point at Mount Vernon.  Others declare that the Skagit river must be dredged from its mouth up to a point above Burlington, and still others say that the Seattle dam at Ruby creek will offer much protection, although when this project will be completed is doubtful.


Many declare that to secure prompt and efficient action regarding flood protection, all drainage and diking districts should be consolidated into one county-wide district with responsible men at the head of it.


1921 Flood



Last Tuesday would have been December 20, 1921.  Flood crested Tuesday, December 13, 1921.  Must have meant last Tuesday a week ago.





At this time the levees were 4,000 feet back from their current location.  He must have been living near the dike break.




This would be the current BNSF tracks.  Means R/R repaired the tracks in just 9 days.



Avon By-Pass, “straighten the river” build dams and dredging.








Consolidate the dike districts.


skagit county flood loss estimated at half million dollars minimum -- more stories of damage up-river; roads wiped out; ferries and bridges destroyed; work of repairing flood damage starts; no report of drowning in entire skagit flood district; flood worst in skagit history

While the loss to property in Skagit county, due to the flood, is estimated by the county commissioners at more than half a million dollars, only a small portion of this amount was incurred by the farmers of the county.  In fact, most of the flooded land where the current was not swift, was benefited by the flooded land where the current was not swift, was benefited by the flooding and deposits of silt.  . . .  Abe Young, who lives near Sauk, was a heavy loser.  His house and a barn filled with hay and about fifteen acres of fine orchard land were washed down the river.  For a mile at the lower end of the Sauk river, is a continuous jam of logs and debris.  Above the White place, the whole mountain slid in, carrying road and all.  Several Indians lost their houses and their little farms.  The water was 52 inches high in the Sauk store and did some damage to the bottom layer of goods piled on benches and showcases.  . . .  Miles of the road up the Sauk river was washed out.  Mr. Thompson is doubtful if the old route will ever be used again.  At present a new trail is being cut.  When a new road is built, it will probably be constructed along the hill, out of danger of the river.  . . .  The damage in the southern part of the county and on the flats cannot be estimated yet as the land is still under water.  It is thought that salt water dikes on the flats have broken recently.  When these are repaired, it is probably that the water will have to be pumped out.  . . .  The farm of Mr. and Mrs. A.H. Hamburg on the river bank south of town, was hard hit by the flood.  Mr. and Mrs. Hamburg lived for two days in fear of their lives.  The flood either washed out or covered with logs practically all of their five acres.  They lost their horse and wagon, about 100 chickens, their ducks and geese, and their big garden patch was totally destroyed.  The house is filled with mud.  Where the chicken yard used to be is a hole 15 feet deep and the entire place is a mass of wreckage.  Most of their fruit trees and berry bushes are ruined.


USGS (Stewart) 240,000 cfs Concrete (47.6), 210,000 cfs Sedro-Woolley, Corps 140,000 cfs Mt. Vernon.


Most of flooded land benefited from the flood!!




Lower end of Sauk River a continuous jam of logs and debris.





Sauk River road washed out.


Salt water dikes broken.



Hamburg farm hard hit.  House filled with mud. 


Biggest flood in skagit history say old-timers

The flood of 1921 is the biggest flood in the history of the Skagit, according to old timers, who recall the floods of 1879, 1888, 1897 and on up to the big flood of 1909 and the 1917 freshet. Mrs. Dreyer, who lives west of town, tells of the big flood of 1888, when in some places the river backed up higher than this year. She says that not so much damage was done then because there were practically no dikes and the water spread over the lowlands more gradually. Measurements at the Dalles, near Concrete, show that the flood water this year reached a point two feet higher than at any previous time in the memory of the oldest settler. Charley Moses says that it was the biggest flood, with the biggest volume of water ever carried in the Skagit. At Van Horn the water was 14½ inches higher than it had ever been. In 1909 the river in the upper valley was only about two-thirds as wide as it is now. Hundreds of acres of land are being washed away every year, by both Skagit and Sauk rivers. W. A. Ellison says he has been on the upper river for 21 years and this is the biggest flood he has seen or heard old timers tell about.





Charley Moses lived in valley through 1906, 1911, 1917 and 1921 events.  He observed the height of the river in The Dalles in 1921.


flood will not hurt grain fields

Very little damage has been done by the flood to the berry and grain fields, says County Horticulturist E. D. Hunter. In fact, Mr. Hunter states, the silt deposits was beneficial. Only where there was a strong current or where there was a strong current or where stands for a week or longer, there will be a possibility of loss.  . . .

Berry Crops Not Hurt In 1921 Flood


Silt deposits beneficial.


Huge Spillway For Skagit River Proposed To Prevent Flooding


Closely following the recent flood, naturally comes the discussion as to whether such destructive inundations cannot be prevented and what means could be used to accomplish their prevention.  Comes now County Commissioner Zig Nelson with a suggestion, which deserves serious consideration, in the opinion of many.  Mr. Nelson points out the fact that Sedro-Woolley is protected on account of the Sterling cut-off, which opens a straight course for flood waters past Sedro-Woolley, thus minimizing the danger to this community.  Below the cut-off, the waters reaching the big bend in the river this side of Burlington, break out of the banks and continue on the straightest course, as the deep channel east of Burlington clearly shows.  Nelson’s plan is to construct an immense spillway starting at the Sterling bend and continuing in as straight a course as possible to deep salt water, which he says is seven miles in a straight line from the bend, while the river meanders some twenty-one miles before emptying in to the Sound.

1st Avon By-Pass Proposal


Commissioner Zig Nelson.  The overflow channel he is describing would have been in the Strawberry Bar area of the Burlington Bend (a/k/a Sterling Bend).  The deep channel he refers to is Gages Slough.



hamilton reports much damage by last week’s flood

Almost universal housecleaning has been the rule in Hamilton this week.  Only a few houses in the main part of town escaped the muddy waters of the flood, which reached its highest point about midnight Monday.  At one o’clock Tuesday morning the waters began to recede, and by nine o’clock all houses except a few on the exceptionally low ground were clear of water, but the mud remained.    Old residents here tell of three former big floods in the history of the town, in 1897, 1909, and 1917, and it is said that this flood was one of the highest, though probably not quite as high as that of 1897.    The Van Horn Shingle Company at Van Horn lost heavily.  The shingle sheds were ruined, the filing room of the mill was carried away, and two dry kilns collapsed and the shingles which they contained floated away on the flood.  Residents of the houses by the mill, including Mr. And Mrs. W.A. Ellison, took refuge in the mill, putting a stove in the filing room, stove and all, but the main part of the mill remained standing.  Mr. Ellison telephoned to Hamilton every hour, giving reports on the rise of the water until the telephone line to his station across the river went out, then Mr. Shields reported from the Van Horn side of the river until the water rose to the telephone and it had to be taken from the wall.  These reports enabled the Hamilton people to estimate the rise here and to prepare for it.

December 12, 1921 Flood Event



Flood in Hamilton one of the highest although probably not as high as 1897.



skagit valley is recovering from effects of flood

The Skagit valley is slowly recovering from the effects of the big flood of last week, and as far as Concrete is concerned, conditions are now about back to normal again.  During the first part of the week only a small part of the mail came through and that very irregularly, as the railroad was closed and the county roads were in such condition that stages could not operate on a regular schedule.  The freezing weather helped the roads and by Wednesday the stages were making their regular trips.  The railroad was opened between this city and Burlington Wednesday and the passenger train made its first run over the road, and in the evening brought to Concrete about two tons of mail that had accumulated in Sedro-Woolley and Burlington.

December 12, 1921 Flood Event


Stage coaches were making regular trips within one week of big flood.



flood was highest in skagit county history

            Old timers in the Skagit valley, who have seen all the floods in the Skagit valley since the early 80’s say that the recent flood carried a greater volume of water than any previous flood since the county was settled, surpassing even the famous high water of 1897.  The fact that the river did not reach marks set in former years at some points in the upper valley is accounted for by the widening of the river since that time.  In all places where the banks of the river have remained unchanged the 1921 mark is considerably above that of any previous flood known to settlers.

December 12, 1921 Flood Event


Highest flood in the history of the county.  See 12/22/21 CT article.



Fire First Gun in Flood Fight


Permanent Organization To Be Formed “To Improve Skagit River.”


The first gun in the flood fight against flood waters in the Skagit valley was fired Tuesday evening at a mass meeting of Skagit county citizens held in the court house at Mount Vernon.  More than 250 gathered within the court room, the doors were locked and as many more were turned away.

. . .

Charles Nelson, pioneer and strong dike worker, was the first to be called on by the chairman for his views on what course should be taken for flood prevention.  He states it would be useless to build more dikes but that to build jetties at the mouth of the river, dredge the outlets and straighten the channel would be his solution of the problem.


Peter Samuelson urged the consolidation of the diking districts, stating that to do so would save enough money to buy a dredge for the county and to keep it in use.


John Kill also urged that the diking districts be put under one head for more efficient work and to save the taxpayers more money.  It was shown that there are now seventeen such districts in the county.  He also said efforts should be made to secure the assistance of the federal government.


That the people of the county should take the burden of providing adequate protection on their own shoulders, was the opinion of H.L. Willis, who cited the accomplishment of the city of Gaveston [Galveston, TX], which built its mammoth sea wall by bonding its own citizens without any outside assistance.  He urged the adoption of organized effort as soon as possible and concluded with, “Let’s do the job ourselves.”


Alfred Polson spoke briefly in favor of dredging the channel of the river.  He was followed by Captain Siegel who said he had no solution but offered the information that in some twenty odd years the river bed has risen eighteen feet.


A tangible plan was shown by W. H. Franklin, who proposed that the channel should be straightened from Sedro-Woolley to its mouth.  He had maps and drawings of this project and figures as to its probable cost.  He declared that the Skagit would dredge itself if straightened.  His estimated cost of the project was more than three and a half million.


O.J. Whitmarsh voiced his approval of going after federal aid as the Skagit was a navigable stream.  Its channel should be straightened, he added.


H.A. McLean was finally prevailed upon to give his opinion and stated at the outset that he was first in favor of securing a practical engineer to handle the proposition.

O. Rudene spoke at some length urging that the county should procure a dredger and clean out the channel.  Brian Dillon also spoke in favor of dredging the river and also suggested that the height of the dikes be lowered.  He said it was better to get a little water more frequently than a whole lot at one time.



Community Meeting


People turned away after 250 flooded courtroom.




No more dikes.  Build jetties at mouth, dredge outlets and straighten channel.





Consolidate dike districts and buy a dredge.



Consolidate dike districts, get help from Feds.




“Do it ourselves.”







Dredge it.  River “raised 18 feet in 20 years”?  If that process continued that would put the level of the river about 92 feet above current location.


Straighten river, and it would dredge itself.






Straighten and get Fed help.



Hire an engineer.



Dredging.  Overtopping levees.



flood damage to roads was less than in 1917

According to a statement issued by Frank Gilkey, county engineer, the damage to county roads caused by the flood of last month is not so great as that of the flood of 1917, and had many of these roads not been paved they would have been washed out.  The damage to bridges was also much less than was expected.  The force from the current is shown on the Fir-Island road where three slabs of pavement, each weighing about twenty tons, were washed into a field 150 feet from the road.  The five-ton limit on trucks will remain in force until next Saturday, January 14.


Roads were paved sometime between 1917 and 1921.



meeting held to plan way to prevent floods

A mass meeting was held in the county court room in Mount Vernon Tuesday to discuss ways and means of eliminating the flood danger in the lower Skagit Valley.  The meeting was attended by about 250 farmers and other residents of the valley, and plans for curbing the flood waters of the Skagit ranged from the building of a huge spillway from Mount Vernon to Puget Sound, changing the bed of the river, to the reforestation of the logged-off areas on the upper river.  A plan that met general favor was to consolidate all the diking districts to provide funds for buying a dredge to keep the channel of the river open the year round.  The only definite action taken was the appointment of a committee to make a thorough investigation of the matter.

Flood Control Meeting


Buy a dredge boat was suggested as way to curb flooding.


Nelson Names the Committee


Seven Men Will Investigate the Problem of Flood Protection In Skagit County


…H.L. Willis, Mount Vernon, chairman; John Finstad, Conway; Charles A. Nelson, LaConner; Augustus Brawley, Mount Vernon; Hiram Stump, Edison; Charles Callahan, Burlington, and Will Knutzen, North Avon…




Ruby Creek Dam As Skagit Aid


Seattle Engineer Would Show Pictures Here of Project


County Engineer Frank Gilkey is in receipt of a communication from C. F. Uhden, engineer in charge of the Ruby creek dam feature of the Skagit project now under construction by the city of Seattle, expressing appreciation of the interest being taken by Mount Vernon people in the project as it effects the flood situation of the Skagit river.


Mr. Uhden also expresses a willingness to come here in person and demonstrate the Ruby creek project to Skagit county residents through the medium of a lantern slide lecture and explain in what ways this dam may assist in controlling flood waters of the Skagit.


Ross Dam impacts flood control.


City Club Into Flood Problem


Commercial Organization Will Confer With Seattle Engineer on Plans


The president appointed Frank Gilkey, county engineer, and Mayor Moody to confer with C.F. Uhden, who is the engineer in charge of the Ruby creek feature of the Skagit project, relative to the effect this dam will have on Skagit river floods.  This appointment was made at the suggestion of H.L. Willis, chairman of the committee formed by County Commissioner Nelson to investigate the diking situation.


Chamber of Commerce gets active.  Endorsed building of Ross Dam.


big crowd listens to seattle experts discuss flood plan – dam said to be sure cure for skagit valley floods – engineers uhden and dimock of seattle, explain plans for huge dam:  sedro woolley interested

A large crowd gathered in the Rex theater in Mt. Vernon Tuesday evening to listen to the plans for a possible means of stopping floods by damming the water at its source.  About three hundred were present.  . . .  Mr. Uhden, the engineer in charge of the big Seattle project on the Skagit river, told all about his work, illustrating with lantern slides.  He said that Seattle is planning a dam 480 feet high, on Ruby creek, which will take ten years to build, according to present plans.  If Skagit county men wish to raise money to pay for the work, a flood gate dam will be built instead of a solid crest dam as at present planned.  He showed the possibilities of stopping flood which this dam would have.  He said that the Skagit river had 100,000 cfs through Sedro-Woolley, while the flow through Ruby creek was 30,000 cfs.  The last 20 feet of the dam will take care of one-half of this volume of water for three days, during a flood, and an additional 10 feet would take care of the remainder for six days.  The engineers are agreed that this dam is the only logical solution of the flood problem.  Mr. Gilkey said that his idea was to get federal aid to help build the dam with flood gates.  It was stated that if the people of Skagit county wished to go in on the dam, and have Seattle change its plans, the work could be speeded up to take only five instead of ten years.  Another statement made was that the damage in Skagit county for the last two floods was a million and a half dollars.

Ross Dam





Flood control not in original plans.  Seattle wanted Skagit County to get funding for flood gates.




Estimates of flood flows were obviously too low.



Damage in 1917 and 1921 floods only 1.5 million?  That would convert to 15,463,917 2003 dollars.  Of course with today’s development in the floodplain that figure would be increased several times over.  (Source:  Consumer Price Index)



plan to control floods in skagit at ruby creek dam

That the waters of the Skagit River can be controlled, in time of flood, by the huge dam that the city of Seattle proposes to build at the mouth of Ruby creek, in connection with its power project on the upper Skagit, was the argument advanced by C. E. Uhden, chief engineer on the project, at a mass meeting held in the Rex theatre in Mount Vernon Tuesday night. He stated that the plans for the dam, as drawn for the power project, would have to be modified if it was also to be used as a means for flood control, but that the additional cost could be financed through state or county aid.    He claims that the dam would hold the full normal flow the Skagit river for three or four days, and that during times of flood the waters from the upper river could be held back for at least 24 hours, giving the flood waters from the streams of the lower valley time to run off, then the water held at Ruby creek could be gradually released. By modifying the construction of the dam it would be so built that it would hold a larger raise without any danger of flooding the lower valley when the spillways are opened.

Ruby Creek (Ross) Dam


Seattle City Light says Ross Dam could be used for flood control HOWEVER, would require funding from county or state.


Work For Large Flood District


Committee and Dike and Drainage Commissioners Plan Permanent Body


That an enlarged improvement district must be organized before any definite steps can be taken for protection against the high water of the Skagit river, was the opinion expressed at a meeting held here Thursday of the diking and drainage commissioners and the committee recently named to investigate means to prevent future floods.  A vote of all present showed that this opinion was nearly unanimous. …


Through discussion it was found that it would be necessary for the community to secure some outside assistance and that before this could be done some sort of permanent organization must be formed.  ….


Such an improvement district as has been suggested can be formed but it would be allowed only a small levy for its work which was shown would not be enough to do any great amount of flood prevention.



Allen R. Moore, Mr. Willis stated, is to appear before the committee tonight with his theory for the prevention of floods in the Skagit valley.





This was the beginning of the River Improvement Fund.  “Nearly unanimous.”






Get help from Feds.




River Improvement Fund not enough to do it alone.





Still don’t know what Moore wanted to do.  



commissioners inspect flood damage in valley

County Commissioners J. Z. Nelson, E. Van Buren and Richard Thompson spent several days in the upper Skagit valley the first of the week, inspecting the county roads and river banks to ascertain how much damage had been caused by the flood of last month. They found several ferries missing; a few bridges washed out and some damage to the roads, but not so much as had been anticipated. At Rockport and on up the river they were accompanied by C. F. Uhden, construction engineer of Seattle’s power project.

Flood Damage


Ferries missing and a few bridges washed out.



flood control of the skagit river to be discussed

A meeting of taxpayers owning land, which is subject to overflow, along the Skagit River has been called by H. L. Willis, chairman of the Skagit river improvement committee.    The main plan of the committee is to organize a river improvement district under a law enacted by the legislature in 1911. This law allows such a district to buy or condemn land for straightening the channel of a river, to build dikes, locks and floodgates, and take any other action that may be necessary to control the flow of water. As the Skagit River is navigable, the acts of the district will be subject to the approval of the war department of the United States. The estimated acreage of the proposed district is around 70,000, and the cost of any improvement undertaken will be assessed against the land in the district in a similar manner to assessments in diking or drainage districts.

Flood Control Meeting


Wanted to form flood control district for whole county.



beet sugar plant may be located in the skagit valley

The raising of sugar beets will become one of the leading industries of the Skagit valley if plans now being worked out by the Sedro-Woolley commercial club and farmers of the valley are successful.    Mr. Horne stated that if the farmers of Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish counties would plant at least 5,000 acres of sugar beets, that his company would build a $1,250,000 factory at some central point in the district to handle the crop, and would agree to purchase all beets raised at prices ranging from $5.50 to $18 per ton, according to the price of sugar.    The company agrees to sell seed to the farmers at 15 cents per pound, ten pounds being enough to plant an acre. The company will also furnish a drill and plant the seed at 75 cents an acre. It is estimated that it will take the price of ten tons to pay all the expenses of raising and marketing the beets, leaving about $110 an acre profit to the growers.

Agricultural History


Beet sugar plant proposed for area.  Sugar beets going from $5.50 to $18 per ton.  Beet seed 15¢ per pound.



promoter is found guilty of fraud in selling tidelands

Oliver M. Sparks, charged jointly with C. A. Sparks, Geo E. Dye and E. C. Hart with the use of the mails to defraud and conspiracy in connection with the sale of tidelands in the Skagit delta district, was found guilty on both charges by a jury in the federal court in Seattle Tuesday. His trial lasted for two weeks, many prominent Skagit county residents being called as witnesses as to the location and value of the lands sold by the promoters.  The defendants were alleged to have sold about 12,000 acres of land under tidewater lying between the north and south forks of the Skagit River, on their assertions that this land could be reclaimed as reasonable cost. The government contended that the land was worthless, and soil and drainage experts called as witnesses during the course of the trial testified that the cost of diking the lands would be prohibitive, and further that the land could not be used for agricultural purposes if drained, as it was practically all sand. It is claimed that the lands sold brought in $30,000, nearly all from people who were anxious to secure a small tract of land for a home and a small farm.

Tidelands Bust


Scheme to sell Skagit tidelands thwarted. 




forest service to survey road from here to baker lake

According to an announcement made this week by George H. Cecil, district forester of the Portland office of the forestry service, the government will survey a route for a wagon road from this city to the Baker Lake fish hatchery this summer, and that the road will be built next year. It is reported that the money for the construction of the road is available, as $100,000 of the funds appropriated for road building within forest reserves has been set aside for this project.  There are two routes to the Baker Lake hatchery from this city, one on each side of the Baker River, and so far there has been no information given out as to which route will be used by the forestry service, but it is the general opinion that the road will be on the west side of the river.

Baker Lake Road


Wagon trail to be built to Baker Lake Hatchery.



o’malley is appointed as fish commissioner

Henry O’Malley of Seattle was appointed Wednesday by President Harding to the office of commissioner of the bureau of fisheries, to succeed Dr. Hugh M Smith, who resigned some months ago.    Mr. O’Malley entered the fisheries service 20 years ago as apprentice fish culturist at St. Johnsburg, Vt.  In 1898 he was transferred to the Pacific coast and placed in charge of the government hatchery at Baker Lake, near this city, and made his headquarters here for several years, later serving in the Columbia river district and in Alaska before he was placed in charge of all coast hatcheries four years ago.

Baker Lake Fish Hatchery


Man who built Baker Lake hatchery appointed to run federal fish agency by President Harding.


According to this article it was the federal government not the state government who built the Baker Lake fish hatchery in 1898.


Hadley Working on River Control


Congressman Seeks Federal Aid to Curb Skagit; Asks for Data


I was not quite certain, but thought it might be possible to have the survey provided for in the River and Harbor Bill extended to include an examination and report by the engineers on the question of flood control.  I therefore took that question up with General Taylor of the Board of Engineers of Rivers and Harbors who states it is his view that the examination and report as to flood control could not be made without authorization through the Flood Control Committee of the House, as contemplated in the bill which I have introduced and which is now pending before that committee.



…My own idea is that a showing should be made by persons personally cognizant of the facts covering the periodical floods, their frequency, the nature and extent of the same, the nature and extent of the damage sustained in floods of recent years, the conditions which make their recurrence probable, the extent of the area and some idea of the population affected by the floods, the measures heretofore taken by local citizens or authorities to afford protection against the floods and generally any facts which will support the necessity and reasonableness of the end sought by the bill.


Very truly yours,

Lin. H. Hadley


Congressman Hadley letter to Mt. Vernon Commercial Club.



Congressman’s efforts led to 1925 Corps of Engineers Report.   SKAGIT RIVER, WASH., PE by Col. W.J. Barden, Corps of Engineers  {published as House Document #125, 69th Congress, 1st Session}


Promise $35,000 For The Skagit


Government Would Ask Waivers For Any Possible Damages


“When the farmers residing south of Mount Vernon all sign a waiver of damages, stating that they will not hold the United States government liable nor responsible for damages which might arise from high water or other unexpected causes, the government officials will agree to the expenditure of $35,000 available for river improvement,” was the statement of Colonel Schultz, United States district engineer for the Pacific Coast, who was here on an inspection trip with assistant engineer H.J.E. Baker early this week.


The snagboat, Swinomish, was used for this special inspection tour which included the Great Northern bridge, North Fork dam and Skagit River bar.


The hope was expressed by the party that the matter of river improvement might be settled at once as it has been prolonged over a considerable period of time and is attracting much attention now particularly in view of the river and harbors appropriation bill introduced by Congressman Lin H. Hadley.





No indication what the Corps was going to do.  Later articles suggest that they wanted to dredge North and South Forks.



concrete men are awarded contract on upper skagit

William Jennings and Robert Nestos of this city have been awarded a contract by the city of Seattle for clearing fifteen miles of the right of way for the transmission line to run from the city’s power project at Newhalem to Seattle. The clearing unit awarded to the local men runs from the camp at Newhalem to Rocky creek, and this contract is the first to be let on this work, but other contracts for clearing along the transmission line are to be let soon. The bid of the Concrete men amounted to approximately $59,000, their bid being the lowest of four submitted, the other bidders being Seattle firms.    The right of way for the transmission line will follow the Skagit River to the vicinity of Rockport, were it will cross the Skagit and follow the Sauk river valley to Darrington, from where it will make a direct line to Seattle. For the greater part of this distance the right of way will be cleared to a width of 300 feet.

Seattle City Light Electric Transmission Line Construction


Locals awarded contract to clear land for transmission line from Newhalem.  Newhalem to Rockport, cross Skagit and follow Sauk River to Darrington, then to Seattle.


Will Get Data On Skagit River


U.S. Engineer Asks Senator Poindexter to Secure Information


United States Senator Miles Poindexter has been asked by Col. Edward H. Schulz, United States engineer in charge of river and harbor work in the Northwest, for all available information regarding plans for the improvement of the Skagit river, according to word from Seattle.…


When he returns to western Washington next week, Senator Poindexter will assemble data to show the locations to be improved, depths required and other facts and as soon as possible will confer with Skagit county people.  On a recent visit to Skagit county Senator Poindexter inquired into the possibilities of flood control and protection of the mouth of the river, stating he believed the federal government should as rapidly as possible control the waters of the Skagit and prevent future damage by floods.





This was the beginning of the Preliminary Examination published by the Corps January 31, 1925.  Amazing, back then the Corps could do a prelim study in a little over 2 years.  Today we call it a Recon Study and it took the Corps the same amount of time.


Begin a Survey of Skagit River


Data on Flood Conditions Will Be Gathered – Report To Commissioners


Steps are being taken by the Skagit River Committee toward getting a survey made of flood conditions.  Yesterday the committee met with the Board of County Commissioners offering a report and suggesting ways and means of securing a survey.     . . .



While there they conferred with Mr. Parker, head of the United States Geological Survey for this district.  He emphasized the necessity of securing data as to the volume of water coming down the Skagit especially during the flood period.


He also stated that he had a man in his office who is an expert on this kind of work and he offered this man’s services to the county.  He also could secure the data required, especially the volume of flood water, during last December.  Many flood marks have been obliterated but this material should be gathered as soon as possible


…The data on the Skagit river which in past years has been collected by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads, the War Department and Geological Survey will be assembled as the first step in making a survey of the river.  H.L. Willis is chairman of the committee.





Report must have been verbal as no hard copy was located in the State Archives of the County Commissioners meeting.  The next day the Commissioners passed Resolution #1131 which stated:


WHEREAS, G.L. Parker has been recommended for this survey.  NOW THEREFORE, It is hereby ordered that the County Engineer employ G.L. Parker at a salary not to exceed $250.00 per month to make such survey.  All work to be done under the supervision of the County Engineer and payment for same made by warrants drawn on the River Improvement Fund.

No mention of hiring USGS, just Parker.  Other then this resolution no agreement between USGS and Skagit County was located.  Interesting also is that article was published Thursday, November 9, 1922 and resolution was signed Friday, November 10, 1922.



begin a survey of flood conditions on skagit river

Steps have been taken by the Skagit river committee towards getting a survey made of flood conditions, preparatory to making plans for the ultimate control of floods on the river. The committee met with the board of county commissioners Wednesday and made a report of what it had accomplished up to this time and offering suggestions as to ways and means of securing a comprehensive survey.   Some weeks ago the committee went to Tacoma and inspected the improvement work on the Puyallup River, and while there conferred with Mr. Parker, head of the United States geological survey, for this district. Mr. Parker emphasized the necessity of securing data as to the volume of water coming down the Skagit, especially during the flood period. He also stated that he had a man with the survey who is an expert on work of this kind  and tendered this man’s services to the county. The data relative to the flood of last December could also be secured. Many flood marks have been obliterated, but many are still available and the material should be gathered as soon as possible.  The committee recommended that the county commissioners take steps to arrange with the geological survey for the services of this expert, and that he be put to work at once. The commissioners expressed a belief that this would be a good move and will endeavor to have the survey made at once. Considerable data on the Skagit River has been assembled in past years by the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific railroads by the war department and the geological survey, and all this data will be assembled and made available for use during the survey.

Flood Survey


The man Mr. Parker was talking about was James E. Stewart.  His services were “tendered” to the County.


“Considerable data on the Skagit River has been assembled in past years by the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific railroads by the war department and the geological survey, and all this data will be assembled and made available for use during the survey.”  Part of this “data” had to include Mr. Stewarts work in 1918 which was never mentioned in his final “preliminary report” in 1923.  (See Stewart Report, Stewart Report Appendix; James E. Stewart Reflector Bar Notes)


See also 11/9/22 Argus.


To Investigate River Control


Large Party Will Go to Tacoma From Here December 1st and 2nd.


A large delegation of Skagit County citizens will go to Tacoma Friday and Saturday, December 1 and 2 to inspect the control work of the Puyallup River there.  …Mr. [W.J.] Roberts is chief engineer of the project.  His letter follows:


“Your question, ‘How much of the work on this small stream would be applicable to our very much larger river?’  My answer would be: All of it.  That is, the three features which we most particularly emphasize, river clearing, channel dredging and bank protection, would apply with the same emphasis to the Skagit river as they apply to the White and Puyallup rivers.”





We actually had a flood control committee that was involved.  See 12/7/22 article on the “large delegation” that went.


engineer is hired for river survey

The county commissioners this week employed Mr. Stewart, a government engineer, to make a survey of the Skagit river.  Mr. Stewart’s salary is $250 a month, which will be paid out of the money to be raised by the 1 mill levy for river improvement.  The new engineer is from the government office in Seattle, and is working under government orders.  His work here will be under the supervision of the county engineer’s office.  He is already at work testing the river and tributary streams for their flow and volume of water carried, and other data needed to determine flood remedies.

James E. Stewart

Skagit County paid Mr. Stewart directly therefore the County technically owns his work product.  See 11/20/22 Argus article.


Are You Going to Make Trip?


H.L. Willis Urges Skagit County to Learn of Flood Control.


We in Skagit county are facing a similar but larger problem.  For the past ten days the county has had an engineer from the U.S. Geological Survey at work on the upper Skagit near Concrete assembling data on the volume of last December’s flood.  The object is to determine how much water came down upon us last December.  For it is evident that we could make no adequate plans for taking care of any flood unless we knew about how much water was to be taken care of.  When this new data of our recent flood is secured, all the other data on the flow and flood of the Skagit River will be assembled from their various sources.  The general plan then seems to be to place all this data in the hands of a competent engineer and ask him to submit a comprehensive plan for the control of our river.  If it seems necessary, this plan could be submitted to consulting engineers for their approval or rejection.  When we get this far it will be up to the people of the county or the flooded area to determine what next shall be done.  Then we shall have an authoritative, comprehensive plan under which not only we local people can work but which we can present with effect to the state or the U.S. government when we go to them for help.  But let us never forget that we will get no help worth while from any source until we show that we are worthy of some help by beginning to help ourselves.


Every man or woman in Skagit county who is interested in the control of our Skagit river floods is not only invited but urged to go with this Skagit county delegation to Tacoma next Friday, December 1.  …  Let everyone remember that the only credentials he or she needs to become a delegate to this convention is an interest in the control of the Skagit river.  Come, and get ready to give the old Skagit a wallop before he wallops us once too many.


H.R. Willis,

Chairman River Committee





Stewart’s field notes did not start until November 24, 1922.  Skagit County paid Stewart directly, not USGS.  According to Commissioners Journal, December 4, 1922 Skagit paid Stewart $91.67 for his salary, and $291.85 for expenses from the River Improvement Fund.


Skagit paid Stewart again on February 5, 1923, $250 for his salary and $60.03 for expenses.  Referred to him as the “River Engineer”.


On March 5, 1923 Skagit paid Stewart $1.46 for expenses.


Since Skagit County paid Stewart directly and had no formal contract with USGS, and all his work to be done under the supervision of the County Engineer, this technically makes him an employee of Skagit County not USGS.  Skagit should own his work product.



Learn More of Flood Control


Skagit County Delegation Visits Puyallup River Project in Tacoma


On Saturday the party viewed the actual work on the Puyallup river under the direction of Mr. Roberts and Mr. Phillips, the engineers.  It was shown that the cost of this project has already reached a million dollars.







23 men went on the trip.  Most from Mt. Vernon, 5 from Burlington, 1 from LaConner and one from Allen.

12/7/22 Argus

Litigation Over Drainage Ends


The litigation over the formation of Drainage district No. 19 which has extended over a period of six years has been ended.  …  District No. 19 takes in more than 6500 acres.



6 years to form a Drainage District.


Hadley Asks For River Data


Committee in Congress Will Hear About Skagit Floods From Statistics


Saturday, W.R. Fowler, president of the commercial club, J.W. Collins, secretary, Freed Ornes and H.L. Willis sent what available data there was ready concerning the amount of damage that that had been done in past years by the high water.  These men are now compiling statistics concerning the commercial use of the river from years ago.  These are being brought up to date and will be forwarded to Mr. Hadley.




Send Flood Data to Cong. Hadley


Figures Show Enormous Loss in Damage and Cost of Protection Against the River


J.W. Collins on Saturday mailed to Congressman Lin H. Hadley available data on flood damage from the Skagit river.  This data although not as complete as was desired, gives some convincing figures of the amount of water that has come down the Skagit in flood periods.  Mr. Collins secured information from J.E. Stewart, an engineer who has been working for the past week or so collecting figures on past floods and their damage.  He is working under the direction of the board of county commissioners.  . . .  Other information was secured from H.A. Herzog, chief engineer of the Great Northern; J.M. Clapp, of general engineering practice; H.L. Willis, chairman of the citizens’ committees; Capt. F.A. Siegel, of the U.S. snagboat, Swinomish; Frank Gilkey, county engineer; Judge Augustus Brawley, Auditor Walter Barrow and Assessor W.H. Whitney.


The report to Mr. Hadley first gives figures of flood periods as shown by the government station near Sedro-Woolley from 1908 and 1918, exclusive of 1909 and 1917.  The station was discontinued in 1918.  This shows four freshets came in November, two in June, one in January, one in April.


Mr. Stewart has obtained proof that this valley was visited by a flood in 1861 and there are figures for the fall freshet of 1894, 1896, 1897, 1906 and on up to 1921.  The flood of 1909 was the largest flood of recent time.



As to the probable recurrence, the report states, “Engineers who are familiar with river control problems state that a history of any stream for a period of eighty to a hundred years will give reasonable data as to the probable events of the succeeding hundred year period.


The report shows that the twenty-one diking districts which take in approximately forty thousand acres of land.  “There has been,” it states, an expenditure up to and including the year 1921, of $1,087,779 by the organized districts for flood control.  There has also been expended by individuals and co-operative individuals not regularly incorporated an additional $900,000 bring the total expenditures for the flood protection by the residents of the Skagit Delta to the staggering total of $1,987,799.


The report tells of filling up of the Skagit at the mouth, which it says will force the abandonment of the diking system for protection.  It states the South fork channel has filled 16 feet in twenty-nine years.






Would be interesting to secure this “report”.  Appears that Stewart gave him some figures.  The fact that “He is working under the direction of the board of county commissioners” further substantiates that Skagit owns his work product.

This confirms that Skagit County had the Herzog report recommending the Avon By-Pass.  Somewhere in the archives there must be a copy of what Willis submitted.  We have to obtain this.  It will show what Stewart submitted.



Stewart wrote the following in his field notes about the 1861 flood:  “all these lead to the assumption that the great flood was that of December 4, 1861.  The old Indian who told Hart and others at Sedro Woolley in 1879 that the flood was when he was a boy either referred to another flood or they did not understand him.” (Source:  Transcription of Stewart “flood notes” on 9/16/22 by USGS 6/30/23 re Reflector Bar near Marblemount)  This was the only time the “1861” flood was ever mentioned.


This means Dike Districts spent 2 million in 26 years.  Local cost of Avon By-Pass in 1936 was only 1 million.




16 feet in 29 years??  South Fork used to be pretty deep.  Wonder where all that sand goes now.



congress takes up flood control of the skagit river

Congressman Lin H. Hadley has written the Mt. Vernon Commercial club that the proper committee of congress would take up the consideration of flood control of the Skagit River within the next few days. The committee now has under consideration problems of similar kind affecting the Mississippi river and its tributaries, and as soon as study of these streams is concluded, the Skagit will be next in order. Comprehensive data regarding the river and flood conditions in the valley have already been filed with Congressman Hadley and will be presented by him at the hearings before the committee.

Flood Control


Skagit playing second fiddle to Mississippi.  One has to wonder what “comprehensive data” was presented since Mr. Stewart had just began his survey 4 weeks before this article was printed.


Committee Has Skagit River Flood Data

            Following is a letter received by J. W. Collins, secretary of the Mount Vernon Commercial Club in reply to the Skagit flood data sent to Congressman Lindley H. Hadley recently:            I have received your letter of the 17th instant enclosing separate communication furnishing requested data in the matter of the Skagit River flood control.  . . .  I appeared personally before the Flood Control Committee on December 14th in support of my bill, H. R. 12609.  . . .  When I appeared before the committee, one member of long experience in Congress suggested that I get in touch with General Taylor of the War Department on the question of the probable cost of the survey, as sought by the bill…

Congressman Seeks Study of Skagit River


Flood Control Data Presented


Congressman Hadley Gives Skagit River Figures to Committee


I took the data you enclosed to the office of the Flood Control committee this morning and presented it to the chairman.



Perhaps the Federal Archives will have the Willis report Congressman Hadley received.


River Hearing In Seattle Jan. 22


War Department Asks for Information on Puget Sound Waterways


“Information is especially desired as to the improvements proposed by local interests; the amount of present and prospective commerce; and the draft and tonnage of vessels using these rivers.”


Corps wanted more information from locals.


Steelheads Are Plentiful


Word has been received at the game warden’s office that 20,000,000 sockeye eggs have been placed in the streams of Puget Sound.  This has been done in recent weeks in an attempt to re-stock local waters with this fish.  The regular game fishing season in Skagit waters opens April 15, and closes November 30.



Article didn’t say how many were planted in the Skagit.  Interesting that Skagit fishing season was only April through November.


river problems to be discussed soon at seattle meeting  -- federal engineer to hold hearing jan. 22 -- skagit county river committee meets; will make recommendations to legislators at once

The problem of taming the Skagit river is too big a proposition for Skagit county or for the State of Washington, the county river committee decided last week.  Consequently the committee passed a resolution urging the Skagit members of the state legislature to memorialize congress for help in controlling the Skagit river.  . . .  The Skagit river committee urged the employment of an engineer of national reputation on river data and to suggest a feasible plan to control the river.  The federal field engineer is busily at work collecting data but has not made his official report.

River Problems Too Big For Locals


Engineer the article is talking about is James E. Stewart.



flood problems of skagit river will come up at seattle

The committee which has had charge of the investigation of plans for controlling floods in the Skagit River has found that the problem is too large for Skagit county, or even the state, to tackle alone. Consequently the committee passed a resolution at a meeting held this week urging the legislature to memorialize congress for federal aid in solving the Skagit River flood proposition.    The Skagit River committee urged the employment of an engineer of national reputation on river data to suggest a feasible plan to control the river and eliminate the annual danger of heavy damages in the valley from floods. The federal field engineer has been busily at work securing data but has not made any official report yet.

Flood Control


Flood problem too big for Skagit County.  County wanted to hire engineer of “national reputation” to control and eliminate the annual danger of flood damages.


Show Tonnage at River Meet


Skagit Citizens Ready with Figures for U.S. War Department


The problems of the Skagit river were given a hearing Monday afternoon in the Seattle Chamber of Commerce before Col. Edward H. Schultz, representing the War Department of the United States.  …  H.L. Willis presented the report which had been prepared to show the tonnage figures on the Skagit river and also gave other valuable information.  He stated that the farm products originating in this county could be estimated annually at 50,000 tons of oats, 30,000 tons of hay, 12,000 tons of potatoes, 18,000 tons of straw, and 10,000 tons of general farm products.


He declared that if the Skagit river was cleared of all obstructions an increased amount of tonnage could be handled each year.  … 


J.W. Collins, secretary of the Mt. Vernon Commercial Club, pointed out various phases in the written report given Colonel Schultz and spoke on the matter of dredging the lower end of the river.


Capt. H.H. McDonald, pioneer of Skagit river navigation, gave some interesting figures relative to the filling up of the channel from the mouth of the river.  He stated that he had built several boats during the past years and each one had been constructed with a more shallow draft than the one previous in order that it might get up the river from the Sound.  He stated that he had now reached the limit on this form of construction.  …


Those who attended the hearing from this county included H.L. Willis, J.W. Collins, J.O. Rudene, W.E. Moss, B.D. Moody, J.B. Hayton, George B. Reay, W.H. Franklin, Swan Swanson, Charles Nelson, Charles Elde.  C.C. Callahan, of Burlington, also attended the hearing.





Interesting farm history.











Appears that dredging was primary recommendation.



fish hatchery man has exciting trip to lake

Seth Meadows, who is employed at the Baker lake fish hatchery, made the trip to the lake last Friday, just following the snow storm, and had an exciting time before he reached his destination. He left Concrete in the forenoon on a saddle horse and leading two pack horses. He made the trip easily until some distance beyond the ranger station on the Baker River, when he found the trail filled by snow slides and traveling difficult. When he reached the 15-mile board he was compelled to unpack and leave his pack horses and continue with his saddle horse, alternately riding and walking.   When he had gone a short distance farther he ran into a heavy slide and in digging a trail through the horse broke away and in some way went over the bank into the canyon. As it was quite dark at that time, he could not see what became of the horse, but naturally concluded that it had been killed, so went on foot until he reached a forestry service cabin, where he camped for the night, walking on in to the lake Saturday morning. Meanwhile his non-arrival caused uneasiness among the crew at the lake, and after several telephone messages along the line, searching parties were formed and covered a part of the trail. After a good rest Meadows was none the worse for his trip; the horse presumed killed managed to get back on the trail and was found Saturday, unhurt, so no damage was done. However, Meadows is not anxious to make the trip again after a heavy fall of snow.

Baker Lake Fish Hatchery


Travel by horseback to fish hatchery was very dangerous.



frank gilkey resigns as skagit county engineer

Frank Gilkey, engineer of Skagit County, handed in his resignation to the county commissioners Wednesday. The resignation was accepted and the board immediately appointed Robert E. Knapp, chief deputy under Mr. Gilkey, as engineer to serve out the unexpired term. Mr. Gilkey has just completed one term as engineer and was elected last November for another four year term. He will enter the towing business with his brothers and will have charge of the Vancouver, B. C., office of the firm.  Mr. Knapp is an Anacortes man and has been chief deputy for the past two years. He is a competent engineer and is qualified to handle the work of the office to the satisfaction of all concerned. He does not expect to make any changes in the office staff at this time.

County Engineer Resigns


See Robert E.L. Knapp, Skagit County Engineer, Testimony for 11/26/1924 Hearing.


Flood Control Bill is Drawn


Skagit River Included in Congressional Committee’s Report


The bill contains an appropriation of $4,000.  …



Authorizing preliminary examinations and surveys of sundry streams with a view to the control of their floods.

Congressman’s efforts led to 1925 Corps of Engineers Report.   SKAGIT RIVER, WASH., PE by Col. W.J. Barden, Corps of Engineers  {published as House Document #125, 69th Congress, 1st Session}  which resulted in a recommendation of “national benefits are insufficient to justify the U.S. in undertaking such work (flood improvements) either alone or in conjunction with local interests, but are sufficient to justify cooperation by U.S. to the extent of securing the necessary data” (i.e. study it).  First study dealing just with floods.



preliminary work on baker lake road started this week

There will be a passable road from Concrete to Baker Lake before the end of this year, according to plans of the government forestry service.    It is understood that the terminus of the road to be built this year is near the hot springs, across the lake from the fish hatchery.    The present plan is to build a passable road nine feet wide, with turnouts at convenient points, the road to be widened and otherwise improved later when more funds are available and more data at hand as to amount of the traffic the road will have to stand.    It will be necessary for Skagit county to build about two miles of road from the end of the present road at Bear creek to the boundary of the forest reserve, and plans are now being made to open up this piece of road, so as to have it ready for use by the time the highway in forest reserve is under construction.

Baker Lake Road


Fish Hatchery located across the lake from the hot springs.


Survey Work On River To Be Continued

            The Skagit River Improvement committee, H.L. Willis, chairman, called upon the board of county commissioner’s yesterday afternoon and urged a one-mill levy to cover the costs of a survey of the Skagit river.  The purpose of this levy would be to procure data to submit in an effort to secure federal aid.  . . .  James E. Stewart, expert engineer from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, has just completed a survey of the volume of water which went down the river in the flood of 1921.  The river committee is now planning to have an expert engineer make a survey and present his findings to the government, in the hope of securing federal aid.  This expense will be carried by drawing on the $20,000 fund.  It is likely that it may require all of this amount to meet the expense of the survey.

Flood Committee Wants Study of Skagit River


This is further indication that James E. Stewarts work product was unsatisfactory.  See testimony of public hearing 11/26/24.


See also Argus and Courier Times articles on this subject.


Discuss River Problems Here


Two Committees Meet With The Board Of County Commissioners


The delegations asked that the board again include in the budget a 1-mil levy for river protection purposes, but were told that it was too late to include this in the budget for 1924.



E. Van Buren, chairman of the board, said that the board had discussed the Skagit River question when the budget was being prepared but as there was still about $20,000 in the fund created, the board decided there was no further action to be taken, as they had received no report of the survey work made by an engineer named Stewart.  The commissioners hired Stewart when the fund was created by the 1-mil levy.















county board leaves levy for river work out of new budget  --  river committee and mt. vernon citizens protest omission of mill levy in budget for 1924; budget to be adopted at hearing monday of next week; current expense fund levy is less than last year

The county commissioners in adopting a preliminary budget for county expenses omitted the mill levy raised last year about $22,000 to be used for river survey work and preliminary work toward solving the problem of flood protection on the Skagit river.  The county river committee, of which H.L. Willis acted as spokesman, together with a delegation from the Mt. Vernon Commercial club, waited on the commissioners on Wednesday and made an effort to get a mill levy included in the budget, before it comes up for final hearing and passage on Monday of next week, October 1.  . . .  Mr. Van Buren stated that the commissioners felt that with $20,000 from the amount levied last year, still available, that there was no need for an additional mill levy this year, to add more money to the fund.  He said that about $2,000 was spent last year for the federal government engineer who made a flood survey of the river some time ago, after the big flood.  Mr. Stewart, the engineer has not yet submitted his detailed report to the commissioners.  The reason for this, it was explained, was that he resigned from government service soon after finishing his work on the Skagit river, and had been employed by a private firm in the east.  He has been making out his report as rapidly as he could under the circumstances.  Mr. Willis asked the commissioners to employ a competent engineer to prepare detailed plans for the best way of handling a flood control scheme.  The county, when it has a definite plan to submit, will then be in a position to ask for federal aid, he said.  . . .  The commissioners took no action in the river matter, except to say that they could not include an additional one mill levy at this time. 

Commissioners Leave Flood Control Out of Budget












No report from Stewart was given as justification.


Based on documents obtained from NARA it is believed that Skagit County received Stewarts report in October, 1923.  It is known that the CT had his report in December 1923. See 12/20/23 CT article.





flood survey work in skagit valley will be continued

The Skagit River Improvement committee, of which H. L. Willis is chairman, met with the county commissioners Wednesday and urged that the one mill levy for flood control survey on the Skagit River be continued.    James E. Stewart, an expert government engineer, has just completed a survey of the volume of water that went down the river in the big flood of 1921, and the committee is now planning on securing an expert river engineer to make a survey to determine how this water could best be controlled and present his findings to the government in hopes of securing federal aid.    The movement for planning some way to control the flood waters of the Skagit river was started immediately after the flood of 1921, and judging by the progress made on the work since that time, it is likely that there will be several more big floods during the years that will pass before any work is started on the main project..

Flood Control Survey


Stewart had completed his work however the County as of the printing of this article still did not have it.  See 9/27/23 Argus.


Engineering Department Announces River Hearing In Mount Vernon, Nov. 30

            The War Department of the United States engineering office, through W. J. Barden, colonel of the engineering corps, located at Seattle, has issued a notice of public hearing to be held in Mount Vernon, at the Commercial Club rooms, on Friday, November 30, at seven o’clock in the forenoon, at which time the Skagit river project will come up for discussion in all its phases.  . . .  The information especially desired by the engineering department, as combined in the special notice, calls for the following particular data and facts:


  • Character of improvements desired
  • Names of vessels now using the waterway with draft and tonnage of each
  • Amount and character of present commerce.  . . .

Corps of Engineers Public Hearing


River Hearing Friday, Nov. 30


War Department Seeks Information on Improvement of Skagit


A public hearing will be held in the Mount Vernon Commercial Club rooms at 11 o’clock Friday forenoon, November 30, for the purpose of obtaining the views of interested parties in regard to the preliminary examination of the Skagit river.  This announcement was made through the Argus today by the War Department of the United States.



Corps wanted all comments to be submitted in writing.


Engineering Department Announces River Hearing In Mount Vernon, Nov. 30

            The War Department of the United States engineering office, through W. J. Barden, colonel of the engineering corps, located at Seattle, has issued a notice of public hearing to be held in Mount Vernon, at the Commercial Club rooms, on Friday, November 30, at seven o’clock in the forenoon, at which time the Skagit river project will come up for discussion in all its phases.  . . .  The information especially desired by the engineering department, as combined in the special notice, calls for the following particular data and facts:


  • Character of improvements desired
  • Names of vessels now using the waterway with draft and tonnage of each
  • Amount and character of present commerce.  . . .

Corps of Engineers Public Hearing


Skagit River Hearing Today

            Over one hundred citizens and farmers gathered at the Commercial Club rooms today in attendance at the river hearing under the direction of the United States war department.  . . .  No time was lost in getting the hearing underway.  H. L. Willis represented the local river committees.  He spoke at length regarding the need of immediate and permanent river improvement.  . . .  At the conclusion of the hearing, Col. Barden reviewed the situation, touching upon past floods, going back as far as 1815.  He stated that the government does not consider the matter of river floods, but considers matters of this kind, from a strictly navigation standpoint.

Corps Concerned With River Navigation Only


Proof that the Corps had Stewarts report by November 1923.  See 11/26/24 minutes as to what Colonel Barden thought about Stewart Report a year after this meeting.


Need of River Improvement For Deep River Navigation Becomes Growing Necessity

            As to the character of the improvement desired, we may say in general that we want free and impeded access to the sea, in order that our rapidly increasing commerce may fully enjoy the advantages which our location very near salt water should give us.  . . .  We are a community of farmers and have not the skill or knowledge of hydraulic engineers.  What we suggest therefore, in the absence of expert determination, is a result of our experience with the Skagit River for the past twenty-five years.  The stoppage to navigation is caused by the formation of bars and the lodging of snags either at the mouth of the stream or along its source higher up.  These same causes raise the bed of the stream and dam up the water during flood, increasing the high water menace.  It seems to us therefore, that a free and open channel to the sea as well as the lessening of flood danger would both be accomplished by the prosecution of three general lines of work.  First, beginning at deep salt water, two rock jetties should be built to the mouth of the river.  . . .  The second line of work must consist of removing the accumulations which now obstruct navigation.  . . .  The third line of work should be directed toward lessening the burden of silt and drift carried by the river.  . . .  To date all improvements have been with the idea of flood control alone.  Thus there has been expended up to the year 1922, but not including that year, the sum of $1,987,799.10 for dikes and drainage ditches.  These dikes have not attained the object for which they were built as during each flood of any magnitude they fall to confine the stream and are broken in numerous places.  Since the 1921 flood there has been some attempt made to take up this river problem along comprehensive lines covering both phases.  There is at present a considerable sentiment among the residents and tax-payers of Skagit County in favor of forming an improvement district covering all the territory threatened by the river and adopting some plan for dredging and widening the channel…  . . .  A very conservative estimate of farm production over a period of years indicates that approximately 50,000 tons of oats, 30,000 tons of hay, 12,000 tons of potatoes, 18,000 tons of straw, and 10,000 tons of general farm products originate in this valley annually.  . . .  Timber Shipments  The annual timber shipments approach the imposing figure at 300,000,000 feet.  . . .  Navigation Now Difficult  It is a matter of common knowledge that the Skagit is one of the great commercial waterways of the Northwest.  . . .  But it is also a fact and a matter common knowledge that the entrance to this waterway is rapidly becoming blocked by bars and obstructions so that at the present rate of filling a very few more years will see the South Fork of the river entirely closed to navigation.  Capt.  F. A. Siegel of the U.S. Snagboat “Swinomish” has filed a statement with the Board of Commissioners of Skagit County in which he alleges that twenty-nine years ago when he started to navigate the river it was difficult to find bottom with a pike pole at any point in the South Fork between Mount Vernon and Puget Sound.  The bottom of the river has now filled to such an extent that at low tide only small boats or skiffs can travel the channel.  There has apparently been a filling in for almost the entire length of the South Fork of some 16 to 18 feet.  This condition can only be remedied by dredging.

Testimony At Corps Public Hearing


Navigation hindered by formation of bars and lodging of snags.  Free and open channel to the sea desired.


Recommended two rock jetties be built at mouth of river.








Dike and drainage districts spent $1,987,799.10 up to and including 1921.



Dikes did not obtain purpose for which they were built.






Wanted to dredge and widen channel.





29 years ago (1894) couldn’t find bottom of Skagit with a “pike pole” in the South Fork.  Bottom of river now filled 16 to 18 feet.


Levees did not start being built along the forks of the Skagit River until 1883.  (See J.O. Rundene Testimony, 11/26/24.)  Clearly the argument could be made that the sediment being deposited in the channel was a result of the levees being placed on the edge of the river as the sediment used to flow out onto the floodplain.


Editorial:  Need of River Improvement For Deep River Navigation Becomes Growing Necessity


            At the hearing held by the United States engineering staff at the Commercial Club rooms last Friday, much data was submitted showing why the Skagit river should be improved.  . . .  Past experiences have shown exclusively that it takes a long time to get that little ball of red tape unwound, and then when it is unwound, so much of the financial aid which is supposed to mean so much is generally spent in minor red tape details, that the actual amount is reduced to such an extent that it is of little or no particular use; at any rate it becomes so reduced that the amount left is of little or no consequence.  . . .  The Daily Herald herewith reproduces extracts from the volume of data submitted at the hearing last Friday.  It is important information and shows conclusively that the improvement of the Skagit River is an absolute necessity.

Improvement Of Skagit River Is Absolute Necessity


Get Figures At River Hearing


Skagit County Men Show Need of Improving the Skagit River


Col. W.J. Barden, of the United States Engineer’s office in Seattle, was chairman of the hearing.  A report prepared by the Skagit County River committee, and signed by H.L. Willis, of the committee,…


George B. Reah, county commissioner, emphasized the need for protecting the farmer from high water stating that the last high water had cost the county $100,000.  C.C. Nelson also stated that this high water had cost Diking District No. 3, $24,000.  Other talks on the need of flood protection were made by J.O. Rudene and W.J. Knutzen.  …


Mr. Willis declared there were 120,000 tons or 8,000 car loads of farm products shipped by boat from this valley each year and that the dairy products alone were valued at more than two million dollars while the products of the seed growers would reach $200,000.  J.M. Humphrey stated the dairymen’s plants shipped 8600 tons by boat in the first 11 months this year and that the dairy products shipped during 1923 would easily reach two and a half million dollars.


Captain McDonald said he planned to put on a larger boat and give daily service between Skagit points and Seattle.  James O’Hearne, who said no represented the Tom Moore Booming company, gave 96 million feet of logs as the tonnage of his company last year.  He urged the clearing of the South Fork of the river at the shingle mills to the south needed an outlet badly.  …


In closing Col. Barden stated that the proposed dredging at the mouth of the river would be expensive and that this work would have to be kept up from year to year.  He stated the high water in the past had been caused by the contraction of the river at the bridges and that the present system of dikes had also caused more contraction of the stream.  The colonel also stated that the federal government at present was making no provision for flood control except on the Mississippi and the Sacramento rivers, and that the engineer’s office was confined entirely to navigation problems and that the hearing here would be considered only from that standpoint.  …  The opinion seemed to prevail that if protection against high water in the Skagit river was to be secured it must come from the county and state and not from the federal government.


The committee urged the building of jetties at the mouth of the river and the dredging of the river.





Willis report was located and is published in its entirety.  (See 11/26/24)











Farming history.







Logging history.






Dredging mouth of river.

Bridge corridor needed widening.

Levee needed to be setback.



Navigational problems only concern of Corps.



This is what final study in 1925 stated.  Think their minds were made up before study was done?

Jetties and dredging.



seattle plant at newhalem not to be ready this year

Although the contract for the construction of the huge power project for the city of Seattle on the upper Skagit river provides that the plant shall be ready for operation by January 1, 1924, present indications are that the project will not be completed before next summer, and it may be even later before electric current can be transmitted to Seattle. It is reported that delays have occurred in all parts of the work, and there is considerable controversy between the contractors and the engineers for the city as to who is responsible for the delay.    The tunnel for the Gorge creek plant was to have been completed, according to the contract, about two months ago, but it will be at least a month yet before this job is finished, and other parts of the work are at about the stage. Practically all the machinery for the huge power plant is now on the ground and is being installed as rapidly as buildings and foundations are ready. It was planned to transmit current from the new plant to Seattle by New Year’s Day, but all hopes of this have been abandoned and about the best that is expected now is to have the plant in operation by June 1.

Gorge Dam



much timber cut in national forest during past year

According to a report filed by Robt. L. Campbell, forest supervisor, the total sales of timber from the Washington national forest, located in Skagit and Whatcom counties, during the past year were 68,118,000 board feet, valued at $117,589. The reports show that there is over 10 billion feet of timber left in the forest, consisting principally of fir, cedar and hemlock.    The Newby & Mitchell bolt camp, located on the extreme upper Skagit River, has been closed down after cutting 900 cords the past season. A D. Long has cut about 350 cords of cedar bolts, the timber of which was killed in the forest fire of 1922.    The prices on these different sales depend on the quality and location of the timber, ranging from 50 cents a cord for jam and drift cedar to $4 a thousand for cedar logs. It is also stated that 25 per cent of the proceeds of all timber sold from the reserve goes to the county road and school funds of the counties in which timber is located. During the past five years Whatcom County has received $20,000 and Skagit county $12,000 from these sales..

Logging History


61 million board feet valued at $117,589.  10 billion board feet still left in forest.


Forest fire in 1922.


Skagit County had received $12,000 in last 5 years for road and school funds.


report of engineer gives a history of skagit river flood

James E. Stewart, government hydraulic engineer employed about two years ago by Skagit county to investigate flood conditions along the Skagit valley, has just submitted a report on his findings of the “stage and volume of past floods in Skagit valley and advisable protective measures prior to the construction of permanent flood controlling works.”  The report is as comprehensive as possible going back to the floods told of by the Indians in 1815.  It is too long to publish in detail, but this article will give some of the main ideas embodied in Mr. Stewarts findings.  “Since the arrival of the first white people about 1869,” says Mr. Stewart, “there have been six Skagit river floods whose discharge has exceeded 175,000 second feet at Sedro-Woolley.  All of these floods have occurred since Nov. 15, 1896.  The number of floods that exceeded 175,000 second-feet at Sedro-Woolley prior to 1869 is unknown, but the occurrence of two great floods has been discovered.  The exact dates of these early floods are not known, but their stages and volumes have been accurately determined.  . . .  Then follows data on the floods, taken at various places along the river.  The data shows that the floods of 1921 was the second largest since 1856, in Sedro-Woolley, the 1909 flood reaching 26.5 feet on the gage and 1921 flood, 24.3 feet.  . . .  In the light of knowledge of past floods it seems likely, says Mr. Stewart that floods like those of 1917 and 1921 may occur within the next five or six years.  . . .  The writer will make several suggestions as to inexpensive measures that should be carried out in the near future.  They may be briefly outlined ass follows; install a flood warning system, delay diking off the Nookachamps district; protect certain danger zones removing drift from river channel below Hamilton and possibly near Lyman, and build protective dikes at Burlington and possibly Mt. Vernon; obtain additional hydrographic data; form a conservancy district.”  Mr. Stewart gives data showing that rainfall for the two largest floods since data has been kept is much the same.  At the Skagit power camp in 1909 for Nov. 28 and 29, the rainfall for the two days was 7.85 inches.  At the Davis ranch on Dec. 11 and 12, 1921, the rainfall was 7.62 inches, while the maximum temperature in both cases was about 52 degrees.  . . .  Mr. Stewart recommends a delay in diking the Nookachamps district, as at present it acts as a storage reservoir during floods and has prevented much damage.  . . .  Burlington, he says is in danger from any size flood, and should be encircled by a dike, as a correctly built dike around Burlington would protect it against all floods.  . . .  Mr. Stewarts report contains a mass of data collected at various places along the river, and urges that many more of these stations be established.  He says the matter needs further study before any large flood prevention project is undertaken, but that there is always a danger of a repetition of floods.

James E. Stewart

Mr. Stewart was hired in Nov. 1922.  See 11/23/22 CT article.


“6 floods exceeded 175,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley since 1896.”

Clearly Mr. Stewart was using a different datum then is being used today.  USGS has subsequently added 21.06 ft to Stewarts computations at S-W and 12.7 ft to Concrete.  The reported magnitude of these floods has not reoccurred for the past 80 years.

During the November 21 through 25, 1990 flood event 6 inches of rain fell at Marblemount, 15.5 inches of rain fell at Reflector Bar, 11 inches of rain fell at Glacier on the Baker River side and 11.3 inches of rain fell at Darrington on the Sauk River.  The regulated peaks of 146,000 cfs and 152,000 cfs at Concrete and Mount Vernon respectively would have been 182,000 cfs and 180,000 cfs if left unregulated.   One has to ask that if Stewart and USGS computations of the 1921 flood are to be believed, how did we end up with only 180,000 cfs unregulated flow with 15.5 inches of rain at Reflector Bar, and Stewart and USGS end up with 240,000 cfs and 225,000 cfs respectfully with only 10.21 inches of rain falling at Reflector Bar (Davis Ranch 7.6)?  (Sources:  Flood Summary Report, Nooksack, Skagit and Snohomish River Basins, November 1990 Events, Corps of Engineers, 7/18/91; (Stewart/Bodhaine Report, Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1527, 1961)



engineer’s report gives history of floods on skagit

James E. Stewart, government hydraulic engineer, who was employed nearly two years ago by Skagit county to make a survey of flood conditions along the Skagit River, has just submitted a report on his findings on the stage and volume of past floods in the Skagit Valley and advisable protective measures to be undertaken prior to the construction of permanent flood controlling works.  The report is comprehensive and goes back to floods told of by Indians dating back as far as 1815.  The report as a whole is interesting to the people of the valley but is too long to publish in full.

            “Since the arrival of the first white people in the valley, about 1869,” says Mr. Stewart, “there have been six Skagit river floods whose discharge has exceeded 175,000 second feet at Sedro-Woolley.  All of these floods have occurred since November 15, 1896.  The number of floods that exceeded 175,000 second feet prior to 1869 is unknown, but the occurrence of two great floods has been discovered, but their stages and volume have been accurately determined.  The maximum floods which have occurred in the past have had about twice the discharge of the flood of 1921.”  Then follows data on the floods taken at various places along the river.  This data shows that the flood of 1921 was the second largest since 1869, being exceeded by that of 1909.

            Data shows that heavy floods have occurred in 1896, 1897, 1906, 1909, 1917 and 1921.  The problem of climatic conditions is being studied in hopes that the study will throw some light on the frequency of certain sized floods in the past and future.  Judging from past floods, Mr. Stewart says that floods like those of 1917 and 1921 may be expected within the next five or six years.    He suggested as inexpensive measures that would prove beneficial the diking of the Nookachamps district, the removal of drift from the river channel below Hamilton and near Lyman and protective dikes at Burlington and possibly at Mt. Vernon.

James E. Stewart Report



See 12/20/23 CT.


This article is fraught with misleading statements: 


Stewart was hired in November 1922, (See 11/11/1922 C.H.) worked in Skagit County until March 1923 when he left for work at a power company in Pennsylvania.  Stewart had 1897 as being larger then 1909.  He suggested “delaying” the diking off of the Nookachamps which was done by the County engineer in 1924. (See 11/26/24 Knapp Testimony)



permit to divert baker river asked by power company

Further indications of the intention of the Stone & Webster interests to immediately start the development of the power resources of the Baker river valley were the application last week by the company for a permit from the state to divert the waters of the river, and the further fact that about 15 engineers and surveyors arrived in town last Thursday and left the next day for the upper Baker to start preliminary work on the huge project.    The application states that 65,000 horsepower of electricity is expected to be developed in the project.  Work on the development, which will be known as the Baker River Power Development, Eden site, will be started about September 30, 1926, if the permit is granted, according to the application.  It is generally understood that the Eden site is at the head of the Baker river canyon, about a half mile north of town, and the application indicates that what is known as to be lower dam is to be built first.  If the dam is built on this site, the power plant will likely be located in this city, with a steel or concrete pipe line from the dam to the power plant.

Lower Baker River Dam


Surveyors and engineers began arriving in Concrete.


Upper Baker Dam was not scheduled to begin construction until September 30, 1926. 



start work soon on diking project in skagit county

Plans have recently been announced for the Padilla bay diking project for the reclamation of about 9,000 rich land that is now covered by water at high tide.  The project is said to be the biggest of the kind ever undertaken on the Pacific coast.  It is estimated that it will cost approximately $1,300,000 and will require two years’ time to complete.  The plans and specifications for the project have been approved by government engineers and by the state department of conservation and reclamation.  Under the plans drawn, it is proposed to build an enclosing dike eight miles long, from five to 29 feet high, and 335 feet wide at the base, forming a sloping wall of earth and brush from the south end of Hat Island, east of Anacortes, northerly to Samish Island.  The plans also call for an inside dike about half the length of the outer dike, extending from the east end of Samish Island along the low-lying mainland to the Leary slough, to protect the enclosed area from the danger of flooding and streams.  There will also be a drainage basin running parallel to the outer dike and just inside the wall.    Padilla bay is declared by geologists to have been the mouth of the Skagit river generations ago.  When the channel changed, the old outlet was filled with alluvial mud.  The land to be reclaimed is covered with sea grass and is practically dry at low tide for a distance of about three miles from the mainland.

Padilla Bay Diking Project


This is pretty amazing in lieu of the 4/2/1921 C.H. article cited above.  Dike would have been 29 feet high and 335 feet wide.



Geologist declared that Padilla Bay used to be the mouth of the river.



power officials confirm news that dam will be built

The news that work is to start at once on the construction of the huge power project on the Baker River by the Puget Sound Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of the Stone-Webster Corporation, was confirmed last week by A. W. Leonard, president of the Puget Sound Company.  The Seattle Times of last Sunday carried a long article in regard to the proposed dam, giving many interesting details regarding its construction, and in the course of the article Pres. Leonard is quoted as follows:  “We are pleased to announce the beginning of construction on this important unit of power development.  We expect to be developing 30,000 horsepower of electrical energy at the Baker river plant by the end of next year, and will install an additional turbine to bring the full capacity up to 48,000 horsepower.”    The Puget Sound Power & Light company operates a large number of power plants in the western part of this state, and the Baker river power plant will the second in point of capacity, being exceeded only by the White river plant, which is now producing 61,662 horsepower.  However, the power company also has in contemplation a second dam on the Baker River, to be located at Sulphur canyon, on the upper river, and when this is constructed; it will develop nearly as much power as the main dam here.    The big dam will be located below the Superior railroad bridge across the Baker and as it will be 225 feet high, it will put the railroad out of commission.

Lower Baker River Dam


Work to begin at once.  Dam to be built 225 feet high.  Actual construction did not start until April 1, 1924.  Construction expected to be done by end of 1925.


high water floods many parts of district; railroad stopped

After several days of rain and Chinooks, the river in all parts of the district, went over their banks in many places on Tuesday.  A stretch of some 150 feet of the Great Northern near Hamilton was washed out, and the town of Hamilton was cut off from everything but telephone communication Tuesday morning.  The bridge over the slough at Hamilton was washed out, and the bridge to the Lyman ferry at Lyman went down stream Tuesday.  At the unprotected places on the river near the town of Hamilton and Lyman, big areas of land and trees were washed bodily into the river.  In the Sterling district, families started moving out of danger Tuesday afternoon.  The old road to Burlington was covered, and lowlands between Sedro-Woolley and the river were under water Tuesday afternoon.  . . .  Big areas of land in the Burlington and Sterling districts were under water Tuesday, and also in the upper valley.  All sloughs along the Skagit river are covering the adjacent land, and the river is filled with drifting trees and debris.  The river rose five feet Monday night.  Tuesday night the river rose several feet more, covering the road between the trestle and the river bridge south of this city, and large areas of land.  By Wednesday morning the flood had reached its crest and had receded from the road this side of the river.  The Clear Lake Road near the Eldred place was under some four feet of water and impassable.


Neither the Corps of Engineers or USGS reported this flood event.


Flood was serious event in Hamilton and Sterling.


Levees broke in Conway and Burlington.  (See 2/14/24 Argus article)


$6,000,000 in Giant Baker River Electrical Development

            Water power development of the Pacific northwest will receive great impetus in the announcement of the Puget Sound Power & Light company that it will immediately begin the construction of a 45,000 horsepower hydro-electric plant on the Baker River in Skagit County, representing an investment of $6,000,000.  Foundations and approximately a depth of 50 feet of the dam are scheduled for completion this year and the entire work will be finished in 1925 – regarded by engineers as remarkable speed for the construction of such an important hydro-electric unit.  . . .  The Baker River is looked upon as one of the most interesting electric generating installations in all the northwest, so rich in water powers.  . . .  As it falls out of Baker Lake it passes through Sulphur canyon where there is a splendid potential development that will come as soon as needful following the completion of the present installation at Eden canyon, twelve miles below Sulphur canyon.  Water from the impounding dam in these canyons will create a lake approximately eight miles long and reaching almost to the upper canyon.  This lake will be 1600 acres in extent, storing 50,000 acre feet of water.  . . .  Next on the program of the Puget Sound Power & Light company after the announced development on Baker river probably will be the installation of a hydro-electric plant at Sulphur canyon almost as large as that near Concrete.  The waters of the Baker river will then be utilized in two steps, the Sulphur canyon site having not quite the same amount of water available due to the fact that two or three tributaries flow into the Baker river between the two.

Lower Baker Dam


Amount would be approximately $64,000,000 in 2003 dollars according to Consumer Price Index adjusting for inflation.


High Water Hits Lyman -- Ten Families Are Marooned

            As an aftermath of the high water of the last few days, the upper Skagit people are experiencing much anxiety from possible danger of landslides.  This is particularly true of a small group of ten families, who are marooned on a small island across the river from Lyman, caused by the washing out of three bridges across the Skagit near Lyman, or their approaches.  . . .  The Lyman bridge extending from that city to Day Creek, was carried away Tuesday night, while the two bridges across Alder creek are rendered useless for the present, owing to their approaches having been swept away.  . . .  Several of the smaller homes within ten to twelve feet of the river have been moved.  Men are hauling spruce trees and laying them along the river to prevent caving in of the land near the school building, and steps to prevent loss are being taken by residents of Lyman.



See 2/14/24 CT and Argus articles.  First documented February flood.


Water Reaches Rim of Skagit River


The stream nearly reached the flood stage of 23 feet in 1921.  A break in the dike on Fisher’s slough south of Conway caused the water to back up toward that town and over the Pacific highway.  Traffic however, was not impeded.  Another break at Dry Slough caused the water to start over Fir Island… but not to any depth.


The outer dike near Burlington broke early yesterday morning and would have gone through the secondary dike but for the quick action of the residents in that neighborhood near Dr. Cleveland’s farm.  Reports from Hamilton state that 400 feet of the Sedro-Woolley–Rockport highway and the Great Northern railway right-of-way had been carried away into the Skagit river by a landslide west of Sauk.  …


This is the first time, according to old residents of Mount Vernon that the flood stage has been reached by the Skagit in the month of February.



Amazing.  This flood is not on anybody’s radar.  Not reported by USGS or Corps yet according to this article almost as serious as 1921 at least in Mt. Vernon.


Dikes break in Conway and BurlingtonBurlington has “secondary dike”?  They must have been talking about the railroad grade.





First February flood.



light damage done by flood waters in skagit valley

The residents of Concrete and other points in the upper Skagit valley were surprised Tuesday morning to find the Skagit and Baker rivers running bank full and the waters still rising, and in many instances preparations were quickly made for meeting flood conditions of 1917 and 1921.  However, the rise in the Skagit ceased about noon Tuesday and the waters have gone down rapidly and the rivers in the upper valley are now almost down to normal.    The Skagit at this point was bank full and the low ground in East Concrete was overflowed, but Crofoot’s addition on the west side of the Baker escaped the flood by two feet.  Here the river lacked from eight to 10 feet of being up to the flood mark of 1921, but near Mt. Vernon and at other points in the lower valley, it is reported that the river came within two feet of reaching the 1921 mark.  ..  At Hamilton a considerable portion of the town was overflowed but no great damage caused.  Between Hamilton and Lyman several bridges on the road went out and about 200 feet of track on the Great Northern line was washed out.    In the lower valley there were no serious breaks in the dikes and the damage from the flood was light.




See 2/14/24 MVDH, 2/14/24 Argus, on this flood.  River at Concrete was 8 to 10 feet less than 1921 flood.



all work stopped on power project until board meets

All the men employed on construction of camp buildings and other preliminary work on the Baker river dam project for the Stone & Webster Co., except a small engineering crew, were laid off yesterday until after the meeting of the board of directors of the corporation, which will be held in Boston about March 15.  No reason has been given out here for the orders to stop work, as it was generally understood that the preliminary work under way would be completed regardless of the action taken by the directors on the actual construction of the dam and power plant this year.    W. D. Shannon, general superintendent of construction for the company, who has had personal supervision of the work here, is now on his way to Boston to present his data on the project to the directors at their meeting this month.  The people of Concrete are anxiously awaiting word of the action taken at the Boston session, and if the report is favorable, Concrete will be a lively town for the next few years.

Lower Baker Dam


Construction of only the “camps” had started at this point.  No work on the actual dam had begun.


Writes About Flood Control


John Finstad of Conway Offers Material for Citizens’ Consideration


In recent years there has been some agitation for the purposes of controlling the floodwaters of the Skagit river, but as time passes on after a disastrous flood, the people of the valley easily forget that they ever had a flood, until another comes along.  Then they will have meetings for some time figuring on dredging and straightening the channel, but in the end nothings come out of it.


Not considering the disastrous summer freshet in 1894 we have had six or seven fast winter freshets during the past 30 years.  The highest one of these was the one of November 30, 1909, when about eight inches of rain fell in two days at upriver points.  This flood measured about 220,000 second feet at Sedro-Woolley.  Competent engineers claim that only about 150,000 second feet can pass through at the Riverside Great Northern bridge.  Consequently about 70,000 second feet had to seek an outlet somewhere else.  The February flood of this year was not considered dangerous but still it destroyed half a dozen homesteads at the Sauk delta and broke dikes at the Skagit delta to the value of at least $20,000, besides destroying several bridges at upriver points.


We have back in the mountains numerous large basins and deep gulches and valleys.  Undoubtedly places can be found where a dam can be built equaling for storage purposes at least half a cube mile.  The Ruby dam of the Seattle hydroelectric project is to be 480 feet high creating a lake about 25 miles long and five miles wide in most places  Back of this dam the Skagit has a shed of about 1200 square miles or a little more than one third of the whole basin of the Skagit and its tributaries.  Actual measurements at this dam site by U.S.G.S. shows the minimum flow to be 800 second feet and the maximum 50,000 second feet during 12 years of observation up to 1923.  Supposing the upper 20 feet of this dam was reserved for flood control it would take care of the maximum flow of 50,000 for at least twelve days.


Stone & Webster are going to build a dam across the Baker canyon back of Concrete in the near future.  Here another lake will be created up to six or seven miles long.  If 20 feet was reserved for flood control at this dam, Baker river would be eliminated from any flood danger from that source.




Tremendous letter to newspaper.  Should be required reading for entire valley.



Hits nail right on the head.




These are Stewart’s figures.  Eight inches of rain would not produce 220,000 cfs at Sedro-Woolley.


Flow figures are same as ones used by Corps and FEMA in 1979.


February flood “not serious: but yet destroyed bridges and broke dikes.  No record of this flood in federal files.


Recognized dam storage at Ross.  What USGS measurements at dam site?











Recognized dam storage at Lower Baker.  Needed top 20 feet to be used for flood control.



power company to continue work on baker river plant

The Stone & Webster Corporation has definitely decided to proceed with the development of the Baker River project, and the latest reports are that actual work towards building the huge dam and power plant will be started next week.  The men in charge of the preliminary work at the camp and at the dam site have been notified to have everything in readiness for a crew of 150 men by April 1, and the buildings are being rushed, provisions, and supplies hauled in and other work hurried to completion in order that the camp will be ready for the new men.    Dennis Winn of the United States Bureau of Fisheries has filed a protest with the state against granting a permit for the dam, claiming that it will put the Baker lake fish hatchery out of commission.  The Baker lake hatchery is the only hatchery in the country handling sockeye salmon, and if the fish are stopped from coming up the Baker river, the plant will be unable to secure eggs for hatching.  It is believed that this matter will be adjusted at the hearing before the state board next month.

Lower Baker Dam

Baker Fish Hatchery

Work to start on dam by April 1st.  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service filed protest to building of dam due to impacts on salmon runs and fish hatchery.


Baker Lake hatchery only one handling sockeye salmon.



power company is rushing work on new project here

The preliminary work on the huge power project being constructed just north of town by the Stone & Webster company has been going ahead rapidly for the past few weeks, and it seems certain that actual construction work on the big dam and power plant will be under way in the near future.  At the main camp on the hill a large number of carpenters and other workmen have been steadily employed and there are now about 40 buildings at the camp of various sizes, occupied as bunk houses, dwellings, offices of various kinds, and other buildings needed to care for a large crew.  A large warehouse has been built near the site of the old Washington steam plant, and a part of the steam plant has been enclosed for use as additional storage space for supplies and equipment.    The largest job under way at this time is the construction of a railroad along the east bank of the Baker River from the old Washington plant northerly to the site of the power plant just north of the camp.  The railroad follows the bank of the stream a few feet above the water level and passes under the Baker river bridge near the east end between the pier and the bank.  There is considerable rock work along the right of way and it will probably require some weeks yet before the track can be laid.  A number of new spur tracks have also been built near the Washington plant.

Lower Baker Dam


This article makes it sound like they completely changed the shoreline of Baker River.



many men engaged on construction of power project

The Baker river canyon presents a wonderful scene of activity these days and each day new changes may be noted in the area adjacent to the site of the Stone & Webster power project on the river.  The field of operations extends from the railroad spur in East Concrete, up the Baker river valley on both sides of the river to the high railroad bridge across the river at the head of the canyon.  At all points men are busy transporting materials, building roads, erecting buildings, clearing ground, blasting out rock, and a thousand other things preliminary to actual construction work on the project.  The camp on the bluff east of the town is a small city in itself, and all along the river are tents and cabins occupied by employees of the Stone & Webster concern.  There are now over 900 men employed on the works, and the crews are readily being increased rapidly as conditions are ready for the new men.    The foundations of the dam will be about 200 feet in width and will be sunk 35 feet into the solid rock.  The main dam will be 230 feet high, and the walls will have a gradual slope towards the top, which will have a width of about 25 feet.  It will be built of reinforced concrete throughout, and will be sunk into the solid rock on each side of the canyon.

Lower Baker Dam


900 men employed.  Foundation of dam 200 feet wide.  Slopes upward until width 25 feet across.


will get data on skagit river


County To Establish Hydrographic Station at the Dalles Near Concrete


Work was started yesterday on the construction of a hydrographic station at the Dalles of the Skagit River near Concrete.  The plans and specifications for the station were prepared by the county engineer’s office and were approved by the board of county commissioners at the regular meeting on Friday.  . . .


The station will provide means of measuring the water of the Skagit river for its volume and velocity and will be of great value in giving records in the future fight to control the floods of the river.  During past years there has been no accurate record kept of the river and engineers have no data upon which to base control measures.  For this reason the board of County commissioners approved the plans of the county engineer.



The county installed the gage at the Dalles.


Robert E. L. Knapp was the county engineer. He lived at 105 Snoqualmie in Mount Vernon with his wife Irene. Retired by 1948 and died in 1977.  He is buried in Grand View Cemetery in Anacortes. The Kerns Funeral home handled matters.


“has been no accurate record kept of the river and engineers have no data upon which to base control measures.”  They didn’t trust the Stewart Report.




county will build station to gauge flow of river here

At a meeting of the board of county commissioners held last Friday it was decided to immediately install a hydrographic station a The Dalles of the Skagit River, near Grasmere, to record the height and flow of water in the river during flood stage.  As the river is now at its lowest stage, and as this work must be done while the river is low, it was decided to save the time it would take to call for bids for the installation and to have the work done under the supervision of the county engineer, and Deputy Engineer Wright will be in personal charge of the erection of the station.  While the details of the station are too technical for a layman to understand, the work will consist of a concrete well from a point about two feet under low water to a point above extreme high water mark, in which will be installed instruments to automatically record the height of the water, and a cable will be strung across the river on which will be suspended instruments to gauge the flow of the stream.  The work of installing the station will start at once and will be completed within 30 days.  The estimated cost of the completed station is about $1,800, of which the greater part is for the instruments to be used.  The cost of the station will be paid out of the special river improvement fund.  In addition to providing a permanent record of the river during flood stages, the station can also be used as a warning to the residents of the lower valley, as the record of the height of the flood here will give the people on the lower river a change to prepare for the crest of the flood in that locality, as an accurate record of the height of the water here will give them the data on which to base the likely height below.  In the event of extreme high water, much property can be saved, and possibly lives, by having advance knowledge of the flood stage for which preparation should be made.

Dalles River Gage


Gage built and installed by County.  James E. Stewart recommended this gage as his work was only estimates.  See 7/31/24 Argus, 11/26/24 Knapp Testimony.



steelhead trout are planted in grandy lake

George Gallagher, deputy county game warden, made a trip to Grandy Lake yesterday, forenoon with 50,000 steelhead trout fry from the government fish hatchery at Birdsview and liberated the little fishes in the lake for the benefit of fishermen in years to come.  The county game commission has received over 400,000 trout fry from the hatchery, which have been planted in various lakes and streams in the county.

Fish Issue


50,000 Steelhead planted in Grandy Lake.



stone & webster building railroad to cupples ranch

The Stone & Webster Company has found that another railroad will be required for the building of the huge dam and power plant on the Baker River and the second road is now well under way.  It will run from near the site of the old Washington Portland Cement company’s crusher building to the Cupples farm on the other side of the Baker River.  From the top of the hill to the Baker River is a steep incline, and then a bridge has been built across the Baker and nearly a mile up the valley on the other side.  The road will be used for hauling the gravel and sand to be used in the construction of the dam and plant buildings, an enormous quantity of each being required.  The sand and gravel will be secured from a bar on the farm, where there is a plentiful supply of the material and of just the right quantity required for the work.  The work of building the incline railroad is progressing rapidly, and it will be ready for use by the time construction work is started on the dam.  The Baker River is now at its lowest stage, and it is expected that the work of building the foundations for the dam will be started within the next few weeks.  The diversion tunnel, which will carry the waters of the river while the foundations are being built, has been completed, and as soon as the gates are in place the river will be diverted into the tunnel.

Lower Baker Dam


Second railroad needed to build dam.  Diversion tunnel completed.  River soon to be diverted.



baker river is turned into diversion tunnel

The Stone & Webster Company diverted the waters of the Baker River from the river bed into the diversion tunnel the latter part of last week and the site of the huge dam is now dry ground.  A crib dam is being used to keep the water from overflowing during a raise in the river.  A large crew of men is now busy in the river bed in getting the ground ready for the building of the foundations of the dam.  This work will be rushed with all speed possible so as to have the foundations in place before the river reaches flood stage next fall.  The river bed is now being excavated to bedrock for the full width of the dam, and as soon as this is finished forms will be set and the pouring of concrete started.

Lower Baker Dam


Baker River turned into diversion channel.  Riverbed being excavated down to bedrock.



power project is badly damaged by heavy rainstorm

While the heavy rainstorms of Sunday and Monday were greatly appreciated in many communities in Western Washington for putting an end to the fire menace that was threatening heavy damage in many places, the Stone & Webster company is not giving any thanks for the rain.  The Baker river power project suffered a monetary loss that will run into thousands of dollars, and the work of several weeks was entirely wiped out.  But even more serious is the delay caused by the unexpected rise in the river.  The power company has been working against time, using every effort to get the foundations of the huge dam in place before the danger of real floods in the river, and the freshet this week has set the work back from two weeks to a month and makes it that much more difficult to complete the required task this fall.    The Stone & Webster Company had considerable heavy machinery between the two cofferdams, used in excavating for the foundations of the main dam, including a steam shovel and three large suction pumps, with the operating motors and other equipment.  These were all covered by water and sand and will have to be overhauled before they can again be used.  The dam foundation between the two cofferdams was made into a lake and was filled to a considerable depth with sand, and much of the trestle work and other structures on the dam site were washed out.  Before the company will be back to the point of its operations it had reached Saturday the water between the cofferdams will have to be drained off, the machinery and equipment dried out and overhauled, and the sand and gravel deposited by the river excavated.  It is estimated that this will require more than two weeks.

Lower Baker Dam


Heavy equipment lost during unexpected freshet.  Appears diversion channel didn’t handle all the flow.


Would Restrain Net Fishermen


State Orders 167 Skagit County People Into Court on October 14


Notice of a restraining order and order to show cause, with summons and complaint are being served this week upon 167 fishermen who have been charged with operating in the protected area at the mouth of the Skagit river.  The restraining order was obtained in the superior court here Friday and states that the fishermen were violating Order No. 8 made in June 1924 by the State Board of Fisheries.  These fishermen are alleged to have used gill or drift nets.





Were not allowed to fish within a distance of 3 miles from the mouth of river. 



stone & webster work again delayed by flood

Just after getting the dam site between the cofferdams cleared of water and sand and getting down to excavating again, the Stone & Webster was again given a touch of high water.  The steady rain of this week raised the waters of the Baker River to a point where the diversion tunnel would not carry the low, and the cofferdams again overflowed, forming another lake to be pumped out.  The Baker is now falling again, and unless it takes a notion to make another rise, the lake will be pumped out and excavation work started again by the end of the week.  The job of excavating the dam site is now almost done, and unless delayed by more high water, the company will be ready to pour cement for the foundation within the next week or ten days.

Lower Baker Dam


Another freshet sets back construction.  Cement expected to be poured within one week to ten days.


senator dill and black for river control

. . .  Both Senator Dill and Mr. Black dwelt upon flood control here and pledged themselves to the task of securing government aid in this huge undertaking. Senator Dill reiterated his stand in regard to river control when interviewed in this city today. He said that the valley needs protection from floods and that he would do all in his power to bring about relief. In this connection, Mr. Black also promised to produce results.

Congressman Commits To Flood Control



pouring of cement for big power dam starts tomorrow

The Stone & Webster Company has now completed all its preliminary preparations for building the huge power dam in the Baker River canyon, and according to present plans the first cement for the foundations of the dam will be poured tomorrow.  The excavating of the site to bed rock has been completed and the first forms are now being set in place.  The massive bunkers for the storage of sand and gravel have been built and are already partially filled for the first run, and the battery of huge cement mixers have been set up and are ready for operation, and chutes have been placed from the mixers to the dam site to carry the concrete from the mixers to the dam.  The mixers have a capacity of more than 3,000 cubic yards of concrete a day, and it is planned to operate them to as near full capacity as possible.    The progress of the work up to the present time indicates that the dam and plant will be completed and in operation by the time first fixed by the company, November 1, 1925, and if this is done it will likely set a record that will stand for some years to come.  The work being done here is more extensive than the construction of the Seattle project on the upper Skagit, and that plant has been under construction for a number of years and, as now completed, will not have the capacity of the plant being built here.

Lower Baker Dam


Cement ready to be poured.  Completion date set for November 1925.


Puget Power would build this dam in less time and would produce more power then the Seattle City Light project at Gorge Dam.


fish case awaits high court ruling

Continuance of the LaConner fish case until after the supreme court of the state has given a decision on a similar case, now pending in the higher court, has been announced. . . .  167 FISHERMAN CHARGED Notice of a restraining order and an order to show cause, with summons and complaint were served the first week in October on 167 fishermen, charging them with operating within the closed area at the mouth of the Skagit river. The fishermen were alleged to have used gill nets.

Fish Lawsuit


167 commercial fisherman charged with using gill nets in mouth of Skagit River.



stone & webster stops all work on account of strike

Last Friday the I. W. W. called a general strike on the works of the Stone & Webster company here, over 500 men being called off the work on the power dam during Friday and Saturday.  It is estimated that around 150 men stayed on the job, but these were not enough to keep the work going, and as it appeared impossible to get a new crew, the work of the dam and power plant was yesterday closed down indefinitely, and all the men on the work were paid off.  All the men remaining at the camp now are care takers and watchmen and the necessary clerical force.  While the strike seems to have been under consideration for some time, it came as a surprise to the people of the city.  The strikers, nearly all of whom are members of the I. W. W. demanded a 25 per cent increase in wages, more and better food, clean linen once a week, no overtime, safer working conditions, boycott of California products and release of all class prisoners, although it is not shown how the Stone & Webster company could comply with the last demand.  The demands of the strikers were refused by the company and the strike was immediately called.

Lower Baker Dam


If its not freshets it’s the Union strike that shuts down work.  Strike demands included 25% pay increase, more food, clean linen once a week and no overtime.  Company told them to take a hike and so they did.


skagit river up 14 feet

Rising rapidly, the Skagit river is fourteen and one-half feet higher today than it was at 9:30 last night. The Skagit began rising last night, due to warm winds of Thursday. Before it started to rise, the river was one-half foot below sea level; the lowest it has been this season. Boats on the river had difficulty in docking. The heavy rains of last night have had no effect thus far. It is not expected that there will be any flood danger.




strike called on power project is about petered out

The general strike called about a week ago by the I. W. W. against the Stone & Webster power project here seems to be petering out for lack of opposition.  The closing down of all work on the dam and power plant by the Stone & Webster Company was a severe blow to the strikers, as there cannot be any great enthusiasm maintained in a strike where there is no opposition.  The closing down of the work releases all the men who did not go out and the strikers had no further change to quarrel with them, and as no new men are being employed there was no further change to keep up interest by stopping strikebreakers, so while the strike is still on, there is very little enthusiasm shown and a majority of the strikers are reported to have left town.  Where the streets were filled with strikers a week ago, now one is seldom seen, except for the few now on picket duty.    Owing to flood conditions in the Baker River there is very little chance that the Stone & Webster Company will resume work before spring, even if the strike is called off.  For the next few months there will be intermittent high water in the river, and the work is at a stage now where it cannot be continued during high water, and each flood is likely to wash out much of the work done since the preceding one.  At the present time watchmen and the necessary clerical force is employed, and it is not likely that the crew will be increased for several months.

Lower Baker Dam


Strikers losing interest.  Flood conditions also stopped work.



the strike situation is now getting serious

The strike called by the I. W. W. against the Stone & Webster work here, which has been on for some weeks, has reached a point where trouble is likely to occur at any time, and conditions are more serious than appears on the surface.  The pickets maintained by the I. W. W. are gradually becoming more troublesome and people in cars and on foot are being stopped and interfered with, even though they have no connection whatever with the strike.  The few men in this city who are still working at the camp have to be escorted through the picket lines by officers, and even then there have been several narrow escapes from a clash that might lead to bloodshed.

Lower Baker Dam


Strikers turning violent.


river flood report to be made

A public hearing will be held in the Commercial Club at Mt. Vernon, Washington at 1 p.m. Wednesday, November 26, in connection with a report on preliminary examination of Skagit River with reference to its floods which was directed by the Act of Congress of May 31, 1924.  . . .  While for accuracy of record all important facts and arguments should be submitted in writing, oral evidence will be heard.

Corps of Engineers Public Hearing

This was one of the most important meetings in Skagit County history.  Copies of the minutes and testimony submitted have been obtained and are published in this index.  


flood menace is told here

Flood control of the Skagit river was urged this afternoon at a meeting which was held in the Commercial club rooms, this city. Col. W. J. Barden, Seattle , government representative, and his aides were in attendance at the meeting and heard the reports of the local committees in which the need for flood control was stressed. . . .  Data gathered by the committee for the last three years was submitted to Col. Barden and his aides, which they took under advisement. A long report, prepared by H. L. Willis, chairman of the river committee, was submitted. The full report will be found on page three of today’s issue of the Daily Herald. In his report, Mr. Willis went as far back as 1894 when the damage caused by a flood here amounted to $1,500,000. A review of the floods since that time was made in the report, details of which are presented on page three, this issue. The report showed that floods here have cost the citizens thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Corps of Engineers Public Meeting

The minutes of this most important meeting were obtained from the NARA in Sandpoint Naval Air Station.  Because of the importance of what was stated at this meeting, the minutes, Mr. Willis’s testimony, as well as the testimony of the County Engineer and farmer J. O. Rundene are included in this index.


Curb of Flood Waters Urged By Local Committee; Damage Estimates Are High

            Data gathered by several Skagit County committees over a period of several years was today presented to Col. W. J. Barden, Seattle, who was there for the river hearing.  All the data asked for is included in a lengthy report submitted by H. L. Willis, chairman of the river improvement committee and which was turned over to Col. Barden.  The complete report follows:

See 11/26/24 H.L. Willis Testimony

The MVDH published the entire Willis presentation.  We obtained the actual copy of Mr. Willis’s presentation in the archives of the NARA in Sandpoint and it is reproduced electronically below.


minutes of corps of engineers public meeting

I would like to emphasize the point that Mr. Knapp brought out in his paper, that before any really scientific plan can be prepared for the protection of this valley from floods, it is necessary to have more authoritative information then we now have as to the amount of water carried by the river in time of floods.  . . .  The information that was collected by Mr. Stewart and given in his report to the committee was excellent so far as the data that he had to work upon permitted, but that data was necessarily more or less inaccurate.

Colonel Barden Statement re Accuracy of Stewart Report


Stewarts “data was necessarily more or less inaccurate”.  USGS and the Corps are still using the Stewart data in computing 100 year flood flows on the Skagit.


Testimony of H.L. Willis

“As to the frequency, duration, and height of floods in the Skagit River, we refer you for greater details to the comprehensive report submitted to the Skagit County Commissioners by Mr. J. E. Stewart in 1922.  A copy of this report was also filed with the U.S. Beological Survey.”

Skagit County Received Copy of Stewart Report

Mr. Willis’s report contained a couple of typo’s.  The county received the Stewart Report in 1923 and was filed with the US Geological Survey department.


testimony of county engineer robert e.l. knapp

“In accordance with the wishes of this Citizens Committee above mentioned, a hydraulic engineer of wide reputation, Mr. James E. Stewart, was employed and in the fall of 1922 and the winter of 1923, he made a thorough preliminary examination of the valley and river system, and his exhaustive report is now on file in my office.  “He has recommended, first that a flood warning system be installed; second, that the diking off of the Nookachamps be delayed; third, that certain danger spots be protected; fourth, obtain additional hydrographic data; and fifth, form a conservancy district.”  “The first recommendation has not as yet been carried out.  Chiefly because of the limited funds at hand.  The second recommendation has been carried out.  The third recommendation has to some extent been carried out.  Drift barriers have been built near Lyman, and a jetty built some little distance below Lyman.  The fourth recommendation we have been very active in fulfilling because it is in direct line with the original wishes of the Citizens Committee on flood control.”  . . .  “I will give you a brief outline of such work as we have done in gathering additional hydrographic data.  Because of the limited funds available in time past, such technical data as has been gathered in this vicinity, has been very meager and calculations of stream flow are at best only an estimate and accurate to within only 10 to 20%The technical data so far gathered, has been done entirely by the USGS Department of Water Resources, and they have had to rely upon intermittent gage readings, observations and recollections of residents, and more or less disconnected precipitation records.”  . . .  “Consequently, in order to secure definite and accurate stream flow records, it is necessary to install good reliable equipment and take measurements in a systematic manner.  For this purpose and acting upon the recommendation of Mr. Stewart, the Board of County Commissioners in the spring of 1924 instructed the county engineer to proceed with the construction of a suitable installation for the purpose of gathering accurate stream flow records.

County Engineer Needs More Accurate Data In Which To Gage Flood Heights


County Engineer had Stewart Report.





County delayed diking off Nookachamps.








Stewart calculations were “only an estimate”.  Relied upon intermittent gage readings, observations and recollections of residents, and more or less disconnected precipitation records.


Needed gage in Dalles in order to secure “accurate stream flow records.”


j.o. rundene testimony

. . .I have lived in Skagit County forty-nine years and am familiar with the flood conditions, experienced in the Skagit Valley and particularly the LaConner flats, so called, during that period of time; that the first freshet and flood from the Skagit River that I recall, occurred the last of May in 1882.  At that time there were no dikes on the Skagit River, but the land bordering on the same extending upward to the foothills and the foothills themselves were all covered with a heavy growth of fir, cedar and spruce.  The water at that time covered the LaConner flats and stood on my farm three feet deep for a period of about two weeks, the depth of the water varying during that period of time.  . . .  In 1883 I commenced to build dikes along the North Fork of the Skagit River.  These dikes were gradually increased and work was done on them continuously until 1895, when I retired as Commissioner, and at that time it appeared to me and I thought the dikes were sufficiently high to protect the land against extreme high water at all seasons and during all flood conditions.  . . .  As this condition has increased the size of the dikes have also been greatly increased, until at the present time the dikes are at least three times as large as they were in 1895, when they were considered sufficient for all possible purposes.  There were other freshet of lesser consequences during the intervening years, but the next time at which the entire country was covered with water, as I recall it, was in 1909.  At that time the dikes broke at various points on the Skagit River and North fork flooding the entire country between Mt. Vernon and LaConner and between Burlington and the mouth of the Samish River at Edison, being territory about ten miles square, to a depth of from two to eight feet of water.  There was water in the vicinity of my place, about six feet deep, for a period of two weeks or longer, the water standing on the land for a period of a month or more.  The next large freshet was in 1917, occurring in December and the entire country above referred to was again covered with water to a depth of from two to six feet, the water remaining on the land until after Christmas time.  The next large freshet was in 1921 on New year’s day.  The entire country was again covered to a depth of from two to six feet and the water remaining on the land over a period of two weeks.  . . .

Local Farmer Tells of Flood History


Lived in Skagit since 1875.  In 1882 there were no levees.




Began building levees in 1883 along the North Fork of Skagit River.



He blamed logging for increasing the amount of run-off in floods.






1909 flood broke North Fork levees and flooded everything from Mt. Vernon to LaConner. 


1909, 1917 and 1921 floods all deposited 2 to 6 feet of water on his farm.


Tell of Skagit Flood Damage


Citizens Appear Before War Department Engineer With Much Data


Citizens of Skagit county appeared before Col. W.J. Bardon, District United States Engineer of the War Department yesterday in the Mount Vernon Commercial club rooms and presented evidence of past damage by Skagit river floods.  The hearing was called by the War Department officer “in connection with a report on preliminary examination of the river as directed by an act of Congress of May 31, 1924.”


The Skagit river improvement committee composed of representative men of this county with H.L. Willis as chairman, prepared data which was presented at the hearing, calling attention to the report filed with the county commissioners by J.E. Stewart in 1922, a copy of which also was filed with the U.S. Biological Survey.


The report states the “cost of dikes already constructed together with repairs and enlargements has, to date, exceeded 1 1-4 million dollars.”  …


“The era of power development for electrical purposes into which we are now entering seems to give hope along a practical line for flood relief.  There is at present one large dam on Baker river in process of construction.  Another is projected in the Skagit at Ruby creek.  Still another on the Sauk river has been discussed.  If arrangements could be made with any or all the builders of these dams to hold always available the upper ten feet of the dam for flood storage the greater part of our flood menace would seem to be gone.  Such storage for 48 hours would hold back the crest of the flood and give time for run-off.  It is the crest of the flood that breaks the dikes and does the damage.”


The reported quoted in detail from the report made two years ago by J.W. Collins, secretary of the Commercial club which stated that the flood of 1894 damaged crops in the valley approximately 1 1-2 million dollars.  The flood of 1897 also did great property damage and in 1906 the loss was estimated at $250,000 while that of 1909 was placed at 1 1-2 millions.  The flood caused estimated damage at $500,000 in 1917, according to Mr. Collin’s report.


After the 1921 flood H.L. Devin of Sedro-Woolley prepared a detailed report with the following figures:


Public road and bridges………………………$ 75,000

Buildings………………………………….........   30,000

Loss of logs and bolts………………………… 105,000

Merchandise and personal property…………  45,000

Dikes, ditches and drain tile…………………. 100,000

Crops, harvested and unharvested …………  30,000

Live stock………………………………………. 55,000

Drainage land and future crops………………100,000

Loss of wages………………………………….  15,000

TOTAL                                                          $505,000


“There are also intangible losses.  Among these are many thousands of dollars of trade and merchants either through the sudden cutting off of the transportation or through the crippling of the customer’s ability to buy.


“The total losses from all floods in the past fifty years have been enormous; yet as the valley becomes more highly developed each succeeding flood is likely to be more disastrous than the last.  The damage to the present valley of such a flood as that of 1820 which was 40 per cent, greater than that of 1909, can hardly be conceived.  While we yet have some property to protect it behooves us to seek out some practical method to curb this flood menace which is already lurking in the mountain ready to burst upon us.”


Several citizens gave oral testimony as to the damage caused in past years by the overflowing the Skagit river and Robert E.L. Knapp county engineer appeared before the engineer and gave further technical testimony concerning the floods of the river.  He also told of the county’s work in establishing a hydrographic station on the upper river by means of which accurate data of the flow of the river and its rise and fall may be kept.








This means that they published Preliminary Report (Recon Report) in just  7 months from the time they got authorization.


Note date of report.  1922.  This is a typo.  Report was actually given to County sometime after September 1923.  In any event destroys USGS argument that early reports were just drafts.



Lower Baker not completed yet.  Recognized impact of dam storage on flood control.  Upper ten feet should be used for storage.





Also need to find Collins report.







Flood damages.























Statement had to come from Stewart. 


High Winds and Heavy Rain Cause Skagit River to Rise

            Continued heavy rains and Chinook winds during the last twenty-four hours have caused the Skagit river to rise rapidly and today the high water conditions have assumed a serious aspect.  Since yesterday noon the river here has risen about six feet and observers today claim that the water is rising about three inches an hour.  At one o’clock the river was nearing the eighteen-foot mark.  . . .  Several of the old timers say the conditions are just about right for flood.  Crest of the high waters has not been reached, they declare.  . . .  Telephone reports received by the Daily Herald this afternoon from Lyman were that the road between that place and Hamilton was under water.  . . .  Late reports received by the Daily Herald were that part of Hamilton is under water.  School was dismissed and the desks and other equipment are being moved from the building, it was reported.



Flood would have been on December 12th and 13th, 1924.  USGS and Corps reported flood carried 92,500 cfs and reached 32.44 feet at Concrete.  No figures for Mt. Vernon.


Part of Hamilton underwater.  Dikes broke at Dry Slough on Fir Island. (See 12/18/24 Argus article.)



Weakened Dike Is Washed Out

            Seventy-five feet of diking were washed out near Skagit City this morning and as a result several hundred acres of lowlands are flooded.  The break was in the same place as that of the last big flood.  Late reports received here were that the water had not yet reached the road, but that unless the river goes down, the highway will be covered.  Weak construction of the dike is believed to have caused the washout  since the river was four feet from the top.  . . .  Hamilton reports the river dropping and it is said the water is now off the road between Hamilton and Concrete.

Skagit City Dike Washed Out


High Water In Skagit County


Heavy Rains and Warm Winds Again Send Stream to the Flood Stage


Heavy rains and warm winds caused the Skagit to rise rapidly Friday and Saturday, the stream reaching the 20-foot mark at the old gauge across the river from the Mission theatre.  With the sudden drop in temperature however, the stream began to go down.  Dry Slough southwest of Mount Vernon was unable to hold the flood and the water soon covered the farming district of Fir Island with from one to two feet of water.  Water also backed across the pavement between Mount Vernon and Conway and south of Milltown.  Traffic, however, was not interrupted.



Flood would have been on December 12th and 13th, 1924.  USGS and Corps reported flood carried 92,500 cfs and reached 32.44 feet at Concrete.


Dikes broke at Dry Slough on Fir Island.


farmers consider plans for new drainage district here

A meeting of farmers of this district to consider a new drainage project will be held in the Sedro-Woolley Commercial club rooms on Saturday afternoon of this week at 2 o’clock. County Agent Bergstrom is in charge of the meeting and is developing plans for the proposed district. This matter was brought up in 1922 and is being considered again because certain farmers have asked for relief from the excess water in this district.  . . .  The proposed drainage district extends about to Cokedale on the east, including the Northern State hospital lands; goes up to Duke’s hill on the north, to the edge of town on the west and as far south toward the river as drainage is needed.  . . .  Those who oppose the drainage district because they say their land does not need drainage, will not be included in the proposed district, if drainage will not benefit them, Mr. Bergstrom said today. He estimates that the district will include between 4500 and 5000 acres in this district, and believes that enough of the farm owners in the district feel the need of drainage, to make the organization possible.

New Drainage Project

5,000 acre drainage district boundaries were Cokedale on the East including Northern State, Dukes Hill on the North, Sedro-Woolley to the west and south to the Skagit River.


river is washing land away rapidly; threatens highway

During the past month or two, more than an acre of land has been washed into the river, from the farm just west of the Northern Pacific railroad bridge south of town.  . . .  Besides the washing away of this good farm land, the most serious menace is the dry bed of an old slough, which has been partially filled in, and is now exposed, or soon will be, to the full current of the river at high water. If the river is permitted to wash much more land away, the backwater will go up this slough at high water, and flood the pavement even worse than it is now at high water.  . . .

Erosion Near Sedro-Woolley


Acre of ground washed into the Skagit just west of NPRR bridge south of Sedro-Woolley (adjacent to Highway 9 bridge).


county’s “big snake” officially measured


The mighty Skagit had itself officially measured, Monday, by the county engineer’s office, at the county gauging and measuring station, at Concrete.  The county, the City of Seattle and Stone & Webster all keep a wary eye on the writhing monster, and its changes in mood are reported to Colonel Barden, district engineer of the U.S. War Department and G. H. Parker, district engineer of the U.S.G.S., in the form of cryptic, tabulated statistics.  . . .


The most menacing period on record was in 1921, when the snake lashed its tail and ran amuck, and a wide area was flooded.  That time 240,000 second feet of water raced by the observation station.



This article strongly suggests that although gage was installed on 7/31/24 it was not operative until sometime in 1925.





This was directly from Stewart.  Gage didn’t go in until 1924.



fish expert here to study problem of saving salmon

Dr. Henry B. Ward, professor of zoology at the University of Illinois and who is known as the leading authority in the United States on the sockeye salmon is spending several weeks in this city and at Baker lake is trying to study out some feasible means of getting the salmon past the power dam of the Stone & Webster company on the Baker river to the spawning grounds at Baker lake, and of getting the small salmon fry from the government hatchery at the lake down the Baker on their way to salt water.  Dr. Ward was here ten years ago and made an investigation and collected data at the Baker Lake hatchery and on this trip is also checking up the results of his investigation at that time.  Dr. Ward says that on account of the damming of the streams in various parts of the country for power projects, million of salmon are prevented from getting to their spawning grounds, and the small fish are prevented from going down stream, and that careful and scientific study must be given the problem of getting the fish over the dam.  He believes that a solution is possible, but is not ready to announce what it may be.  According to Dr. Ward, the Baker river sockeyes are the best in the country, and the Baker Lake hatchery has been doing excellent work, but that the salmon in the river will be practically exterminated unless some means is devised to get the fish past the dam.  In some places experiments have been made to get the small fish down the river by having them go through the turbines, but the pressure is so great that nearly all the fish were killed.

Lower Baker Dam

Fish Issue


Professor at University of Illinois employed to study how to save the sockeye from dam construction.  He also studied the Baker River fish hatchery in 1915.


Around the country dams have prevented millions of salmon from getting to their spawning streams.


skagit county leads nation in soil test


Seven Year Government Probe Brings District Handsome Tribute

From Gunderson Farm

First Seven and Last Two Out of Twelve Won Locally; Gunderson Farm 100 Per Cent


The United States government has just admitted that Skagit county is the finest farming community in the nation, bar none.  In a series of soil tests extending over the past seven years, . . . Skagit county soil won nine out of 12 points.  An assay of soil taken from the Gunderson estate, south of Clear Lake, was found to be 100 per cent perfect for general agricultural purposes.  It was the only soil given a perfect rating.








This would be Nookachamps soil.


hearing on Padilla bay dike districts

A hearing was held before a jury in superior court Wednesday, on the proposed Padilla Bay diking district. The jury returned a directed verdict assessing damages and benefits of the proposed project. The estimated benefit to owners of lands in the territory which it is proposed to drain was $1,900,000. There were 126 property owners involved. The estimated benefits were about $200 an acre, and the nominal estimate damage, $1 an acre. It is said that there are over 10,000 acres now under water, that will be drained for cultivation. It is proposed to drain Padilla Bay, which means that the water between the Samish Camp Fire grounds and Hat island will be drained, laving the camp’s point of land, with water only on one side. Bay View will be left miles from any water, if the plans are carried out.  . . .

Padilla Bay Dike District


Proposal included draining Padilla Bay.



stone & webster will have big dam finished by nov. 1

The huge power project of the Stone & Webster Company in the Baker river canyon is now nearing completion, and another month or so will see the big plant in operation.  The work has gone ahead rapidly for the past few months, and the monster job is now getting down to finishing touches in many places.  The crew of 1,000 or more men, that has been kept busy on construction work for twenty-four hours a day through the summer, is now being gradually reduced, and as each phase of the job is finished more men will be let out.  It is generally believed that by the end of the next thirty days there will be only a few hundred men left on the job, and in about sixty days there will be no one left except the operating crews and a crew to clean up the odds and ends of the project.  The huge dam, which is the largest part of the construction of the local project, is rapidly nearing completion.  On the west side of the Baker the dam is almost finished.  Cement has been poured to the full height of the structure and practically all work on this end of the dam is done.  The gate piers have been placed, and on the east end of the dam there are several sections to be poured yet.  The work on this end has been delayed on account of rotten rock on the surface, requiring considerable blasting and excavation work to get down to a solid foundation for the east wall.    The huge dam, which is the largest part of the construction of the local project, is rapidly nearing completion.  On the west side of the Baker the dam is almost finished.  Cement has been poured to the full height of the structure and practically all work on this end of the dam is done.  The gate piers have been placed, and on the east end of the dam there are several sections to be poured yet.  The work on this end has been delayed on account of rotten rock on the surface, requiring considerable blasting and excavation work to get down to a solid foundation for the east wall.  It is expected that all the construction work on the dam will be finished by October 15, and then the spillways will be sealed and the big dam filled with water.

Lower Baker Dam


Dam nearing completion.  Encountered “rotten rock” on east end of dam.


great baker river power plant nearing completion – lake shannon newly created 7-mile lake

Washington’s newest hydro-electric project, the great Baker River plant, is rapidly nearing completion.  . . .  In honor to William D. Shannon, the man who has had entire charge of construction, the lake formed by the dam thrown across the Baker river will be known as “Shannon Lake.”  The lake will be more than seven miles long and will contain sufficient water to cover 70,000 acres one foot deep … The surface area of the lake will be 1,780 acres and it will be 405 feet above sea level.  Baker River rises among the glaciers on the south slopes of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan, in Whatcom county.  Near the foot of these peaks a glacial moraine backs up the river to form beautiful Baker Lake, the elevation of which is 664 feet above sea level.  . . .  It (the dam) contains more than 220,000 cubic yards of concrete masonry.  Back of this gigantic dam will be Shannon Lake, the reservoir that will store the flood waters of the river which will develop eventually 80,000 horsepower for use throughout western and central Washington.  . . . Construction was started April 1, 1924.

Baker Dam Just About Completed

Shannon Lake named for William D. Shannon, dam engineer and project manager.




Glacial moraine formed Baker Lake.  Need to determine how much water was in Baker Lake before Upper Baker dam was built.


Lake Shannon reservoir “will store the flood waters of the river”. 

They built a dam in 18 months. 



great baker river power plant nearing completion

Washington’s newest hydro-electric project, the great Baker river plant is rapidly nearing completion.  It will ultimately become the largest hydro-electric power plant of the Puget Sound Power & Light Company.  In honor of William D. Shannon, the man who has had entire charge of construction, the lake formed by the dam thrown across the Baker River will be known as “Shannon Lake.”  The lake will be more than seven miles long and will contain sufficient water to cover 70,000 acres one foot deep, ample to supply the power plant with the necessary flow every day throughout the year.  The surface area of the lake will be 1780 acres, and it will be 405 feet above sea level.  Baker River rises among the glaciers on the south slopes of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan in Whatcom County.  Near the foot of these peaks a glacial moraine backs up the river to form beautiful Baker Lake, the elevation of which is 664 feet above sea level.  From the lake the stream flows down mountain gorges and through a valley 15 miles to its confluence with the Skagit River, near Concrete.  Just before reaching the Skagit the Baker flows through deep Eden gorge, across which the power project dam has been built 245 feet high and 180 feet thick at the base.  It contains more than 220,000 cubic yards of concrete masonry.  Back of this gigantic dam will be Shannon Lake, the reservoir that will store the flood waters of the river which will develop eventually 80,000 horsepower for use throughout Western and Central Washington wherever the Puget Sound Power & Light company’s transmission lines extend.    The cost of this great undertaking, with a 13,000 kilowatt substation at Sedro-Woolley, is exceeding $8,000,000.  Under the supervision of Mr. Shannon, a world’s record is being made in the construction of this project.  As far as known no other plant of equal power will have been constructed in as short a time, or at a smaller relative outlay, and this despite the fact that last winter proved one of the worst on record.  Construction was started April 1, 1924.

Picture available


Lower Baker Dam


Lake behind dam named after project manager William D. Shannon.  Lake seven miles long.


Glacial moraine backs up Baker River to form Baker Lake.  It would be interesting to determine if it was a glacial moraine or a volcanic mudflow.


It was 15 miles from Baker Lake down the Baker River to the Skagit River.


Reservoir to “store flood waters”. 


drainage expert to visit skagit

A.B. Crane, drainage specialist, will pay Skagit county a five day visit from October 23 to 28 inclusive, and all farmers in the district desiring advice on their farm drainage problems should apply at once, . . .  he has spent 36 days assisting individual farmers in working out their farm drainage problems.  57 of the farmers applying for this work have been given personal assistance in planning their drainage systems, these 57 farmers represent a total acreage of 2,729 acres.



57 farmers represented 2,729 acres.  That would be an average of 48 acres per farm.  Farms were a lot smaller back then.


Huge Artificial Lake Is Formed

            Forming of the huge artificial lake to be known as Shannon lake at the Baker River project was started this week when the Baker river was turned against the power dam at Concrete.  During the first day that the course of the river was turned to the lake, the lake rose eleven feet.  The huge artificially constructed lake is eight miles in length with a maximum width of about a mile.  Its depth approximates 200 feet.  The dam is 245 feet high from bedrock to the top of the flood gates, and is 450 feet ling.  . . .  Construction of the dam started about eighteen months ago, on April 1, 1924.

Lake Shannon Begins To Fill


First day lake rose 11 feet.


Skagit Lowest In 30 Years, U.S. Men Busy

            The Skagit River is now at the lowest stage of flow that it has been for almost thirty years.  This startling fact was revealed today by a group of eight field engineers of the United States geological survey who have been obtaining measure on the river discharge measurements.  . . .  Reports from the Upper Skagit district state that the river in that district shows less channel depth this month than at any time during the past twenty-seven years.  In places the waters are so low that it is possible to cross the river, hopping from boulder to boulder without getting one’s feet wet, according to C.H. Park, supervisor of the Mount Baker National forest, whose office is in Bellingham.  The situation in the Skagit river has reached a most serious condition.  It was brought out in the investigation which is being conducted by geological surveyors that the river bed in many places has raised twenty feet between here and the mouth of the river.  This condition alone is cause for alarm.

Skagit River Very Low


One has to wonder how much the filling of Lake Shannon had to do with the low levels in the Skagit.  Previous 10/24/25 article states Baker River rose 11 feet in one day.


huge lake is now forming behind dam


Reservoir of Water 250 Feet Deep and Eight Miles Long Is Filling

Power Plant is Ready

Massive Concrete Wall Is Anchored Into Solid Rock of Canyon Above Concrete


Mt. Vernon will have light and power from the new Baker River power plant of the Puget Sound Power & Light Co., for a Christmas present.  . . .  lake eight miles long and 250 feet deep.


Lower Baker Dam Completed.





Expected to take 6 weeks to fill up.



baker river power plant will start early next week

The new 40,000 h.p. power plant of the Puget Sound Power & Light company on the Baker river will start operations early next week according to a statement made today by W. D. Shannon, general manager for the Stone & Webster company for the Pacific coast.  The huge dam has been filling up rapidly since the heavy rains of the past week and present indications are that the water for starting the turbines in the power plant will be available by the middle of next week.    On account of the low water in the river the dam filled very slowly for the first week but the heavy rains have caused a small freshet in the Baker river and the lake has been rising quite rapidly since the first of the week.  This morning the water had about forty feet to rise before it would be high enough to start the wheels turning in the power plant, and at the present stage of water it will take about five days to bring the dam up to the necessary level.  The water had been coming up almost ten feet a day for the past few days, but from now on every foot of raise will mean a much larger area to cover, so the height of the water will increase more slowly.    Present indications are that the new power plant will be in operation before the end of next week, and that soon afterwards Concrete will be using Baker river power for lights and power.  As the service has not been very satisfactory for the past month, it is hoped that there will be a change for the better when the local plant is in regular operation.

Lower Baker Dam


Water supposed to be high enough behind the dam to run turbines first week in November.



low water delays starting of new power plant here

Last week, with rain every day and a small freshet in the Baker River, it seemed certain that Lake Shannon, the big lake formed by the filling of the dam across the Baker River, would be filled within another week or ten days.  However, the rain stopped in a few days and the weather turned cold, and the river quickly dropped to the extreme low level of a few weeks ago.  As a consequence the lake is filling very slowly, and unless another heavy rain comes to give relief, it appears as if it will be another month or six weeks before there will be water enough to start the turbines turning in the power plant.  The lake has now reached a height where every inch of raise is spread over hundreds of acres in area, and as it rises from now every foot of raise will mean a greater area to cover and therefore the raise will be slower.  For the 24 hours ending yesterday evening the lake rose just 12 inches.  The water at that time was 31 feet below the tunnel and the water level must be 10 feet above the intake before the plant can be started.  This means that the water still has 41 feet to rise before operations can be started.  At the rate of a foot or less a day, the present rate of progress, it will bring the starting time quite close to Christmas.  The Puget Sound Power & Light company has promised Baker River power as a Christmas present to its customers in the lower valley and it now seems that there is little danger that the present will be delivered ahead of time.

Lower Baker Dam


Water didn’t raise high enough to turn on the power plants.  Could be another month to six weeks before water raised to sufficient level.


Every inch of raise is spread over hundreds of acres in area.  Water level came up 12 inches in 24 hours.  Water still had 41 feet to go.


power from baker river plant ready for use here this week

Marking a new era for electric light and power in this part of the state, the current generated at the new Baker river power project, recently completed by Stone & Webster, will be turned into the Sedro-Woolley sub-station this week.  The water of the river, back of the recently finished dam has risen 160 ft. on the dam to the intake, and the power turbines in the power house have been turned over and tested, so everything is in readiness to start operations.

Baker River Dam Goes On-Line


Water rose 160 feet behind dam.



first power from baker river plant turned out today

The first electric power generated at the Baker river plant of the Puget Sound Power & Light company was carried over the transmission lines from the plant to the substation at Sedro-Woolley today.  Unit No. 1 is now in actual operation and is working as smoothly-as an old and tested machine.    The water in Lake Shannon reached the intake of the tunnel last Saturday and then the water was turned into the tunnel and the machinery turned over for the first time Sunday afternoon.  The first few days of the week were spent in making final adjustments and it was not until today that everything was ready to start manufacturing power.  The water in the dam is still steadily rising and it is now within about 35 feet of the top.  The water is now spreading over such a large area that it only rises a few inches a day, even through the heavy rains of the past week have raised the water in the river.  With the plant in operation and using the water, the dam will fill more slowly and it is not likely that the water will flow over the top for some months, unless there is a real flood in the river.

Lower Baker Dam


Compare this article to the CH 11/6/25 article.  Somehow it seems that the river came up awfully fast.  One of these articles is inaccurate.  It does say though that there were “heavy rains”.    No record of any flood event during that time in 1925.


more “puget power”

Baker River is harnessed to add its age-old strength to the upbuilding of the Pacific Northwest.  The surge of 40,000 horsepower today augments the surging might vibrating in our transmission lines and serving 350 cities, towns and communities in Washington.  The investment of over eight thousand citizens of Western Washington in our securities has aided in making this plant possible.  . . .  Concrete dam 245 feet high.  Impounding 70,000 acre-feet of water.  Creating “Lake Shannon”, 8 miles long.

Advertisement By Puget Power

245 feet high??  See 5/5/27 CT article.  It says dam was 260 ft high.



great new baker river plant completed in record time

Following less than nineteen months elapsed time since the beginning of construction, President A. W. Leonard of the Puget Sound Power & Light company last week pressed the button that marked the official opening of Washington’s newest hydro-electric power development on the Baker River, and which increased the company’s power output by 40,000 horsepower.  Begun April 1, 1924, delayed by a strike and hampered by one of the most severe winters on record in that part of the country, when the flooding waters of the river erased progress time after time, the completion of this plant under the direction of W. D. Shannon, engineer in charge of construction, is regarded as one of the outstanding feats of engineering hitherto accomplished on the Pacific coast and had it not been for an unusual fall through, which materially delayed the filling of the reservoir, it is probable that the lapse of time between the actual commencement of construction and the delivery of power would have been still further reduced.  The dam, which is one of the main features of this plant, is 245 feet high from bedrock to the top of the floodgates-many feet higher than any building in the Northwest, with the single exception of the Smith building tower-and contains enough concrete to construct five hotels similar in size and type of that of the new Olympic in Seattle.  Draining a watershed of 270 square miles, including snow-capped Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan, a reservoir of 1850 acres in extent and of a maximum depth of 200 feet will be formed behind the dam.  From the intake at the dam to the penstock a tunnel 900 feet in length and 22 feet in diameter, inside the concrete lining has been constructed.

Picture available


Lower Baker Dam


Dam completed in record time.  Just 19 months.  Amazing what you can do without public hearings and environmental impact statements.


Drains watershed of 270 sq miles, reservoir 1850 acres, and maximum depth 200 feet.



power company is granted permit to raise local dam

A permit was issued the first of this week to the Puget Sound Power & Light Company by R. K. Tiffany, state supervisor of hydraulics, for the raising of the Baker River dam by 30 feet.  The report published is that the permit provides for the starting of the work before June 3, 1926, and final completion before October 15, 1929.  This raise will make the dam 275 feet in height and will raise the waters in Lake Shannon by 30 feet.  As every foot of raise now means a much larger area for the water to spread over, the 30 foot raise will mean an increase of water storage capacity of 140,000 acre feet, as compared with the present capacity of about 70,000 acre feet.  The estimated cost of the improvement is given as $100,000, and this expenditure will give the company a water storage of more than double the capacity of the present dam.  The purpose of increasing the height of the dam is to make certain that there will be plenty of water to keep the power plant in operation during the months of extreme low water in the Baker River.  It is also likely that the local power plant will be doubled in size and capacity within a few years by the installation of two more units, in which case the additional water will be needed during the months of extreme low water in the Baker River.  It is also likely that the local power plant will be doubled in size and capacity during the months while the river is at a low stage.

Lower Baker Dam


In less than 6 months from completion PSP&L granted permit to raise dam by 30 feet.



men are arriving to start raising baker river dam

It now appears that the job of raising the Baker river dam an additional thirty feet will be started some months sooner than expected.  It had been generally believed that this work would not be started until late in the spring, but indications of the past week are that construction work will be under way next month.  While the work will be rushed as rapidly as possible, it is understood that it will require five or six months to finish all the work contemplated at this time.    There are now about fifty men on the job, and it is understood that the crews will be increased as the work progresses to a maximum of about 300 men.

Lower Baker Dam


Fifty men already on the job of raising Baker Dam.



new diablo dam is great project for upper valley

The construction of the new Diablo dam for the city of Seattle about 13 miles above Newhalem is a big project, according to E. C. Forner, an engineer for the Superior company, who visited the works last Sunday and looked over the works from an engineering standpoint, rather than from the usual scenic point of view.  He brought back some interesting figures in regard to the new dam, which are used in this article.  The dam is located at the southerly end of the noted Diablo canyon, and when completed will be 570 feet wide at the top and 340 feet high, figuring from the ordinary water level of the Skagit river.  Winston Bros. have the contract for the construction of the dam and diversion tunnel and at the present time have a crew of over 400 men at work.  The diversion tunnel is now about 70 per cent completed.  It will be about 600 feet long and 24 feet square and will be used to carry the water of the Skagit river while the dam is under construction, and will possibly be used later to carry water from the dam to a new power plant.  Actual work on the Diablo dam is expected to start within the next three months, with the actual pouring of concrete started within that time.

Diablo Dam


 Will be 340 feet high.  Construction supposed to start by May 1927.



fishing season in skagit county to open next friday

There are some real fishermen in Concrete and also some would-be fishermen and all of them are getting ready for the official opening of the Skagit county fishing season, which is set for next Friday, April 1.  The old rod and reel, which has been cached away since last November, have been dug out and are being oiled up and rigged up with new lines, hooks and sinkers, so as to be ready for action at daybreak on the opening day.    Grandy lake is one of the most popular fishing resorts in the state, and there will be several hundred fishermen on the shores of the lake early Friday morning and even on Thursday night.  Seattle will be well represented and every town or city north of Seattle will have its quota.  There are plenty of fish in the lake and early in the season they are usually easy to catch and are of fine size and quality.

Fish Issue


Appears from this article that fishing season was from April 1 to October 31.  Grandy Lake used to be a very popular fishing spot. 


$200,000 Being Spent To Raise Baker River Dam

            This enlargement of capacity is being accomplished by increasing the height of the Baker River dam by 33 feet from its present 260 feet to a total of 293 feet, and making it one of the highest concrete structures of the kind in the world.

Dam Gets Height Extension


skagit valley warned to prepare for flood!

flood danger here seen in big snowfall


Warm Rain Or Chinook Is Feared – Late Spring Swells Danger

Bridge Weakens Dike

Great Northern Structure Acts as Partial Dam, Mt. Vernon Engineer Points Out


Judge Crookston urged that the Puget Sound Power & Light Co. be requested to lower the level of the water in Lake Shannon, behind the Baker River dam, so the lake could absorb the surplus which will come down when the warm weather sets in.  He said that conditions now are similar to those in the spring of 1894, when the Skagit Valley was flooded.  The difference now, he added is that the forests on the hills which formerly retarded the rush of melted snow have been removed; therefore the danger is more acute.    . . .  


I do not wish to assume the role of a harbinger of disaster,” said Mr. Moore today, “but those citizens of the Skagit Valley whose homes and live stock are protected from floods by dikes, should understand that the stage is partly set for a more than ordinary flood.  The mountainous district to our east has as heavy a snowfall as I have seen in 15 years, with much of it recent or new snow, which is rapidly melted by a warm rain or Chinook wind, and as the spring is far advanced we can expect a sudden change.

Lake Shannon, the result of the dam at Concrete, will be of benefit during a flood, although the Baker river only represents one fifth of the total water in the Skagit river.  Such a lake retards the water to some extent, lengthens the time of passing and thereby lowers the peak of the flood.


“One of the unfortunate conditions permitted by the government engineers is the diagonal position and oversize substructure with riprap, which carries the Great Northern railroad bridge, north of this city.  This substructure obstructs one-sixth of the waterway at or near a sharp bend in the river, which causes repeated failure of the dikes above the aforesaid bridge.”


This is only the second mention of the Spring flood of 1894 I have seen.  The other was as follows: “The Winter floods previous to the Spring flood of 1894 was about 2 feet higher, but they were never as high or no indications of them being so, excepting the one big flood the Indians tell about.  The Winter Floods since that time (1894) were always higher.  The more they diked the river close to it, the higher the floods have been.”  (Source:  Letter to Stewart from Joe Hart, 6/21/23)


Storage in Lake Shannon.


 Logging contributes to flooding.


Most snow since 1912?  If correct would tend to support theory 1917 and 1921 floods were caused more by rain then snow.


Value of storage.





Interesting.  Very interesting.  Not the log jams impeding the flow but the rip rap around the piers.  Impedes one sixth of the flow.  Now here’s an argument that we haven’t heard before.


height of big baker river dam to be increased 33 ft.

The Puget Sound Power & Light Company is expending $200,000 according to announcement just made by President A. W. Leonard, to practically double the water storage capacity behind the great Baker River concrete dam at Concrete in Skagit County.  . . .  This enlargement of capacity is being accomplished by increasing the height of the Baker River dam by 33 feet from its present 260 ft. to a total of 293 feet, making it one of he highest concrete structures of the kind in the world.  Water storage in Shannon Lake created by the building of the Baker River Dam two years ago, is now 10,000 acre-feet but will be increased to 130,000 acre-feet by the heightening of the dam.  . . .  The Baker River sockeye salmon have a reputation far and wide as among the most toothsome of the salmon tribe.  But for the construction of this salmon ladder and railway for the salmon they could not have survived the installation of this mighty dam.  A force of some 200 men is at work on these improvements at Baker river.

Lower Baker Dam Raised


Dam completed in 1925 at a height of 260 feet.  Added another 33 feet.


10,000 acre-feet is a typo.  Should be 70,000 acre-feet.  (See 11/26/25 CT article.)


Baker River Sockeye was a much sought after fish.


Wants Upper Skagit River Bed Cleaned -- River Not Navigable Except During High Water Season

            A committee will also be selected to confer with officials of the power company with reference to the use of the Baker river dam for flood control of the Skagit river.  President John Brisky of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce read a letter which he received from Hugo Bauman of Rockport with reference to the condition of the Skagit river during low water.  Bauman said it was impossible to navigate the river between Sedro-Woolley and Rockport during low water because of snags in the bed of the river.  He urged that the matter be taken up with the government and that a snag boat be put to work, claiming that if the river is navigable the year round, the Rockport community would benefit as well as the county as large.

Lower Baker Flood Control Sought


River impossible to navigate during low water between Sedro-Woolley and Rockport.  Wanted snag-boat to work upriver.


danger of skagit flood believed to be averted


Judge J. M. Shields recalled that Indians used to point to a bald spot on the hills back of Big Lake as a flood barometer, declaring that when it was covered with snow at this time of year, it was time for dwellers of the flats to caulk the seams in their row boats, but that when the snow disappeared, the flood danger would be past.  Judge Shields said this morning the snow was almost gone.


It was announced that the Puget Sound Power and Light Co. expects to lower the level of Lake Shannon, behind the Baker River dam, within a few days.  With the lake down it will act as a safety valve should sudden hot weather bring down the snow water.  However, it is believed that the gradual rise in temperature the past week has had the effect of melting a considerable amount of loose snow and thus removing some of the danger.



Need to see if this landmark is still there.






Lake Shannon to be lowered in May.  Too late but lowered anyway.



new construction on baker river dam doubles capacity

A few months ago the Puget Sound Power & Light company started work on raising the height of the big power dam on the Baker River, just north of town, and this work is now nearing completion.  The dam has been raised 33 feet from the former level and is now 293 feet high from the bottom of the river.  While the new work is only a small proportion of the total height of the dam, it just about doubles the water storage capacity of the dam, the total being increased from 70,000 acre-feet to 130,000 acre feet and so makes it one of the highest concrete structures of its kind in the world.    The new construction on the dam was finished just in time to avoid the spring freshet on the Baker River, the employees just having time to pour the last of the cement and remove the tools before the water started flowing over the dam, with the additional 33 feet in place.  There is now about eighteen inches of water falling over the dam, and the waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the state.  The construction work here has been delayed by the high water, but some of the incidental work is now being completed, and as soon as the freshet is over, the balance of the work will be finished, including the apron in front of the dam which is intended to spread the fall of the water and avoid all danger of having the dam undermined.  The apron is also expected to greatly lessen the loss of salmon fry from the Baker Lake hatchery, a considerable percentage of which is now killed in passing over the dam.  While the number of fish killed has been comparatively low, considering the millions of fry passing over the dam, it is reported that the construction of the apron will reduce the loss by more than half.    The Baker River salmon ranks as one of the best fish in the world for table use, and but for the construction of the new plan of ladder and fishway they could not have survived the construction of the dam.

Baker River Dam


Dam height raised 33 feet to new height of 293 feet high.  Almost doubled water storage capacity from 70,000 to 130,000 acre feet. 


They built a new discharge apron because they were worried about having the dam undermined from the fall of the water.



construction of new diablo dam is going ahead fast

Reports from the city of Seattle power project on the upper Skagit $3,000,000 dam at Diablo canyon progressing more rapidly than was expected. The light snowfall this winter and the generally good weather has been in favor of the contractors, Winston Bros., who have rushed the work in every way possible to get the dam to a point where no great damage could be done by high water.  During the past week the foundations of the dam were finished to the level of the bed of the river, so that the only damage that could be done now by a sudden rise in the river would be the work of removing the machinery and equipment above high water, and the delay necessary until the water recedes.    It is expected that the work will be completed during 1929, unless something out of the ordinary construction hazards happens to retard the work.

Diablo Dam


Diablo Dam cost $3,000,000.  Foundation of the dam completed.  Dam completion date expected sometime in 1929.


stone-webster will spend over $2,000,000 near here – over a million and a quarter will be spent at concrete and almost another million dollars on transmission lines; new projects announced officially; big crew working out of sedro woolley

Insuring a large additional payroll for Sedro-Woolley, during the next few months, the Stone-Webster ‘Co. announced today its plans for improvements in the Baker River power plant at Concrete, and the transmission lines through Sedro-Woolley, amounting to an expenditure of more than $2,000,000.  . . .  During the year 1927 the height of the Baker River dam was increased about 33 feet enlarging the storage capacity at that point from 70,000 acre feet to 130,000 acre feet, while the generating capacity was increased at the same time from 40,215 horsepower to 53,620 horsepower.

More Improvements to Lower Baker



New transmission lines and improvements to power plant.


high water in skagit streams causes damage

Warm winds and rain Wednesday following several days of warmer weather caused the Skagit river and its tributary streams to overflow in several places east of this city, blocking the road west of Hamilton and undermining the Great Northern track between Lyman and Sedro-Woolley.  Other damage all along the river between here and Marblemount was reported, but so far the main river had not flooded any territory.  Backwater and high water in the creeks was responsible for most of the damage, together with slides along the road.  . . .  Grandy creek is a foot higher than it has been in years, and washed out the dam at the fish hatchery at Birdsview.


USGS 95,500 cfs at Concrete (32.9), no figure given for Mt. Vernon or Sedro-Woolley. 


Very small flood event.


seattle chamber to help get Skagit river relief

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce, answering appeals from C. E. Bingham of this city, and Sibert Eaton, local farmer, is making an effort to get federal aid in the fight against the Skagit river. C. C. Finn, prominent Seattle businessman, was in the city this week, investigating conditions of the Skagit river near here, on behalf of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce river and harbor committee, and will make an effort to obtain a federal survey of the river.  . . .  He was much impressed with the fact that hundreds of acres of fine farmland are being washed down the river, and that the banks need protecting and the channel needs straightening. The recent high water did much damage. The big barn built by Henry Cooper at Lyman many years ago, was washed into the river yesterday. The barn stood originally on a farm of forty-five acres and only three acres are left now. County roads are being undermined my the river, and the channel near Burns’ bar, east of this city, is threatening hundreds of acres, and if permitted to continue, may finally threaten the city of Sedro-Woolley.

Seattle To Help Study Skagit


Seattle Chamber of Commerce to help get federal aid to “studySkagit River.



Barn at Lyman fell into the river.  Used to sit on 45 acre farm.  Only three acres left.


h.m. eakin consulted by congress on flood help

H.M. Eakin of this city, who is recognized as a national authority on river flood relief methods, has during the past few weeks been consulted frequently by Congressmen, on his plan for stopping floods in the Mississippi river basin.  . . .  Eakin, who as a United States geologist, had many years of practical experience in river affairs and is the author of textbooks and encyclopedia articles on the subject, had had a recent article of his in the Thrift magazine, quoted in over 150 daily papers of the United States.  . . .  “Nearly everyone knows something of the levee method of controlling flooded streams, but not so many know of the science of river morphology, which aims at so regulating the force of waters that the river could not overflow its banks.”   . . .  He views the construction of higher and higher levees as useless, because in time the river will deposit between them sufficient silt to raise the level of the water as high as they can be built.  . . .  “The dynamic method of control involves the management of stream energies to regulate erosion.  We have in the river itself a powerful engine of construction and destruction, the natural activities of which are largely adverse.”

A Real Local Expert


One has to wonder why local forces didn’t spend more time with Mr. Eakin.  We had a real expert in river morphology living in Sedro-Woolley and his name doesn’t ever appear on any flood related document yet reviewed.  Skagit County missed a golden opportunity.


Flood Control Action Taken by Skagit C.C. -- Resolution Asking Federal Aid is Passed Unanimously

            Renewed activity in an effort to obtain federal aid for flood control of the Skagit river took the form of a resolution, which was unanimously adopted at the monthly meeting of the Skagit County Chamber of Commerce held at the Rexville grange hall last night.  The resolution was present by H. M. Eakin, Sedro-Woolley, who is recognized as a national authority on flood control.  . . .  A portion of the resolution follows:  . . .  “Whereas, particularly in the case of the Skagit river, business and property of extraordinary value per square mile over an area of large extent have repeatedly been subjected to disastrous overflow.  Whereas the major floods of the Skagit, although the river is only a hundred miles long, may equal in volume an eighth or more of the total volume of a major flood on the Mississippi.  . . .  Whereas the drainage capacity and regiment of the Skagit is deteriorating seriously from causes entirely unrelated to the activities and responsibilities of the people occupying and using the lands so menaced.  Whereas, taxation to support protection work has fallen heavily and is a serious burden upon such individuals and communities.  . . . Therefore, be it resolved that a memorial of these facts be presented to our congressmen and senator in Washington, D.C. to assist them in enlisting federal support of flood control works on the Skagit river.”

Skagit County Chamber Of Commerce


Chamber was trying to help County obtain federal aid for flood control.


Chamber felt drainage capacity of river had decreased.


Fraud Charged In Election of Dike District -- McBee Contests Election of F.N. Haley in Padilla District

            The action which was filed by Attorney Henderhon, alleges that Haley was elected through unlawful and fraudulent means.  At the election in question, Haley received 33 votes for commissioner, while Mr. McBee, who is still serving as a commissioner, was given five votes.  McBee complains that Haley deeded a small portion of land to each of 31 persons, in exchange for their votes.  . . .  All 31 people voted for Haley, but they were not qualified to do so, according to McBee, for the reason that they were not property owners.  He claims that Haley actually owned the property and that since, the 31 people held their small portions in trust for Haley’s use.  According to McBee’s complaint, there were only five qualified to vote.  Two of these were Mr. and Mrs. Haley and McBee was a third.  Had the election been legal, according to McBee, he would have received three votes to Haley’s two.  . . .  The Padilla project was formed for the purpose of reclaiming 10,000 acres of tide lands.  A million-dollar program was in prospect, according to McBeen.

Dike District Fraud


Only 5 people lived in District.  38 people voted.


crew at work on river protection; plan new bridges

Under the direction of Skagit county engineer’s office, a crew of men have been doing river bank protection work east of Utopia. Piles are being driven in the slough at the bend in the river and rip-rap work is being done as an added protection.  . . .  Possible methods of straightening the Nookachamps bridge on the Clear Lake road are being considered in the county engineer’s office. Several plans have been presented, but no decision as to which one will be adopted has been made.

County Crews Working In Utopia

Skagit County crew working in Utopia to prevent further bank erosion.


raging skagit rips out boom


Machinery Arrives At Newhalem For Third Unit Of Gorge Power Plant

The Skagit river which has been raising steadily the past week, reached almost flood stage Monday night.  During the night the water rose eighteen inches which is almost unprecedented for early fall.  The great wall of water at the Diablo dam site washed away three lengths of boom and did damage estimated at several thousand dollars to equipment.



Flood reached 74,300 cfs at Concrete at level 29.94.


Plan new jetty for ross slough to stop flooding

One of the greatest menaces to farm land in the upper river valley, the washing away of land by Ross slough, in the Utopia district, may be eliminated if the present plans of the county commissioners are carried out. After a survey by County Engineer Knapp, the county board this week, voted an emergency appropriation of at least $5,000 to be expended at once in the construction of a jetty across the head of Ross slough.  . . .  The board voted to take the money for this work, from the river improvement fund of some $9,000 which has been idle in the bank for several years since its appropriation.

Ross Slough Jetty


County Engineer Knapp recommends jetty across Ross Slough.  Commissioners vote emergency appropriation of $5,000.



seattle dam on skagit damaged by high water

The warm rains this week brought the Skagit to almost flood stage, but all the damage reported is from the Skagit dam in Diablo canyon, above Newhalem, where the cofferdam was washed out. Two large pumps, worth about $800 a-piece, were taken out, and a car load of timbers was washed away. No damage was done to the work on the main dam, and the work is already going ahead as usual.

October 9, 1928 Flood Event

Diablo Dam


74, 300 cfs, 29.94 ft. at Concrete.

Cofferdam washed out at Diablo.



another big power project in skagit valley is planned

That another huge power project is to be started in the Skagit valley was indicated Monday when application was made to the state supervisor of hydraulics for a permit to divert the waters of the Sauk River for power purposes.  At the same time preliminary plans were announced by Lars Langloe, president of the Pacific Development company of Olympia, and R. K. Tiffany, consulting engineer and former supervisor of hydraulics.  These plants provide for the development of a $3,000,000 hydro-electric project on the Sauk River, to be located about five miles up the river from the old town of Sauk.  Langloe and Tiffany said they were acting on behalf of a company whose identity they were not at liberty to disclose at this time.  An application was filed for a permit to impound 375,000 acre feet of storage, water behind a dam 210 feet high and 1,000 feet long.  The project will develop power for industrial purposes only.  The company’s application requests authority to divert 1,000 cubic second feet of water daily from the Sauk River, a tributary of the Skagit.  The preliminary plans call for a 20,000 horsepower plant, with provisions for additional units to be added later.

Sauk River Dam Proposal


Dam location to be 5 miles above town of Sauk.  Dam was to be 210 feet high and 1,000 feet long and would have impounded 375,000 acre feet of storage.


This is the same river that has carried at least three volcanic lahars down the Sauk and into the Skagit in the last 12,000 years. 



new fish hatchery near concrete is planned for year

The budget of the Puget Sound Power and Light company for 1929, which has been awaited by local people who were anxious to learn what improvements, if any, were planned for this vicinity, was released this week.  According to Mr. Sewell, manager of the Northern district, the budget for 1929 is the largest in the history of the company and covers the most ambitious program of power development and service extension and improvement ever undertaken in a single year.    The budget for this year does not include any appropriation for any new dam or a new unit in connection with the Baker river project.  An appropriation is made for the construction of a new fish hatchery on the Baker river to obviate the necessity of transporting salmon over the dam and to replace the government hatchery on the Baker river to obviate the necessity of transporting salmon over the dam and to replace the government hatchery which has heretofore been operated at Baker lake.  It is expected the new hatchery will be built before the dam, and will probably be somewhere in east Concrete.  No information has been received as to when construction work would start or in regard to the size of the hatchery.  This item is included in an appropriation of $300,000 for betterments and improvements to existing plants, and it is probably that some other work will be done here during the year, in addition to the usual routine of operating the plant.

Fish Issue


New fish hatchery to replace the Baker Lake hatchery.  Hatchery was planned to be in east Concrete.



flood surveyors locate power site near faber ferry

A report just released by the U.S. Geological Survey has attracted statewide attention to a possible site for a huge power project on the Skagit River near the Faber ferry, about four miles east of this city.  Two proposed dam sites were examined at this point in September, 1926, by J. T. Pardee, a geologist of the Geological Survey, whose report indicated that the dam sites were of doubtful value.  At each site one end of the dam would be built on land of un-cemented silt and the depth to a solid foundation might be so great as to make the cost prohibitive.  However, this could only be determined by thorough tests.  The recent flood control survey of the Skagit River again called attention to the immense amount of power that would be available if a dam 250 to 300 feet high were built at this point.  It is estimated that such a dam would create sufficient storage capacity to control the combined flood waters of the Skagit and Sauk rivers and probably produce all the power needed in this section of the country for many years to come.    The development of a power project at Faber would be a big boost for the entire Skagit valley and the construction of the dam would eliminate all danger of any further destructive floods in the Skagit River.

Faber Dam Proposal


USGS report looked at site for Faber Dam four miles upstream of Concrete.  Dam sites of “doubtful value”.  Would have to be built on “un-cemented silt” and depth to bedrock might be so great as to make the cost prohibitive. 


These “un-cemented silt” soils are no doubt volcanic soils from Glacier Peak.  We should try and find this report.




dam at diablo will be ready by october

Although Winston Brothers, contractors on the huge dam being built for the city of Seattle at Diablo canyon on the upper Skagit, lost about two months during the past winter on account of weather conditions, it is now practically certain that the dam will be finished before October 1.  The work has been progressing rapidly for the past month and final completion of the project can now be estimated within a few weeks.  Two electric generators for the Diablo power house and the turbines to operate them were recently ordered for delivery early next year.  These generators are of 85,000 horsepower each, greater by 10,000 horsepower than any now in use anywhere in the world.  These will double the present production of electricity of the Seattle light department.  Bids for construction of the power house will be called within a few weeks.

Diablo Dam


Estimated completion date October 1930.


Skagit is mecca of many anglers


7/30/31 Argus

water arrives none too soon


Anacortes Gets First Drink From Skagit When Supply Is Almost Depleted


The 250 horsepower inductive motor in the pump house at Avon began forcing water through the huge main to Anacortes late Friday afternoon at the rate of 2,400 gallons per minute.  . . .  The city has accepted the water from the river, but has not accepted the new pipe line as yet or made final settlement with the contractors.  The water is being treated with chlorine gas as it comes through the intake pipe into the pump, after going through the sand filter.  In Anacortes it is variously treated to insure as nearly 100 per cent water as is possible to obtain.  . . .  New water system cost the City of Anacortes around $700,000



Anacortes Water Treatment Plant goes on line.



water will be turned into diablo power dam saturday

The huge power dam being built by the city of Seattle in Diablo canyon, above Newhalem, is now practically completed and the waters of the Skagit will be turned into the dam next Saturday.  This week the diversion tunnel is being sealed and the two spillways located about forty feet above the bed of the river will also be sealed.  When the water reaches the first gate, or spillway, to remain in the permanent structure, it will have a depth of over 160 feet and will form a lake six miles long and twice as large as Lake Union in Seattle.  With the present flow of water, it will require ten days or more to fill the big dam.    The new power dam is one of the highest in the world, towering 389 feet above the bed of the river.  It ranges in thickness from 140 feet at the base to twelve feet at the top and is built of reinforced concrete from the base on bedrock to the railing at the top.  Superior Portland cement was used in the construction of the dam, and a number of local people have been employed on the project from the time it was started three years ago to its completion.  With completion of this dam, Seattle has one of the largest power projects in the west, and the plant will be further enlarged in the near future through the erection of a huge storage dam on Ruby creek, a few miles further up the Skagit.  It is expected that work will start on the Ruby creek project within the next year.

Diablo Dam


Skagit River waters to be turned against the dam in one week.  Depth of lake to be over 160 feet.  Lake to be 6 miles long.


Base of dam 140 feet thick.


Ross dam not yet under construction.



new power unit on upper skagit is now dedicated

The huge Diablo power dam, under construction for the past three years, is now officially the property of the city of Seattle.  The dam has been fully completed and was dedicated yesterday at an impressive ceremony held on the crest of the dam.  The structure was turned over to the city by Luke S. Oakes, president of Winston Brothers company, builders of the dam, and was accepted on behalf of the city by J. D. Ross, superintendent of the Seattle Light department, and Mayor Frank Edwards.  Other speakers on the program were Governor Hartley and S. F. Tolmie, premier of British Columbia.    The dam, the second largest of its kind in the world, is located in Diablo canyon, about 35 miles up the Skagit river from Rockport.  The dam is of the arch type, 390 feet high, 1200 feet long at the crest, and 140 feet thick at the base.  The walls of the canyon are of solid granite and at some places the opposite walls are only nineteen feet apart.  The dam was started in September, 1927, and its cost is about $4,000,000.  The ultimate power to be generated from this dam, when all contemplated units have been installed, is 225,000 horsepower.  The impounding of the water back of the dam forms a lake six miles long with a storage capacity of 90,000 acre feet.

Diablo Dam


Officially completed.  Dam construction began in September 1927.


Diablo canyon originally narrowed to 19 feet across.  This is the exact location of where Mr. Stewart found evidence of his “monster flood” of 1815 which in a later article turned out to be 1820 which is what Stewart originally said.  (See The Story of Mox Tatlem 3/5/1936 C.H.)



up-river traffic stopped by flood waters of skagit

All highway traffic from Concrete to the upper Skagit valley was cut off for two days the first of the week.  A sudden rise in the waters of the Skagit took out the ferry landing on the south side of the river at the Kauffman ferry, and as a result it was impossible for cars to get on or off the ferry on that side of the river.  A crew of men were immediately placed at work on rebuilding the landing and late Tuesday afternoon the ferry resumed regular service.  It is not likely there will be any further interference with up-river traffic before the new road is open for travel, which will be about November 15.

Undocumented Flood Event


Not reported by Corps of Engineers.  Ferry at Kauffman’s washed away.



flood waters in skagit shuts off travel up river

The residents of the upper Skagit valley have been shut off from highway travel for almost a week now and while conditions now seem more favorable, it will probably be several days yet before autos will be able to travel over the roads from Concrete east.  At the present time, persons in the up river communities who want to come to Concrete either have to take the train or else drive to Van Horn and walk down.  The heavy rains last Thursday and Friday raised the Skagit to flood stage and by Friday night the Concrete and Van Horn ferries were unable to cross, closing the detour.  The river fell a little Monday and hopes were entertained that the road would soon be open again, but the downpour all day Tuesday brought the river up again until it was several feet above the former mark.  Yesterday it was reported that all the ferries above here had stopped running.  With the rain apparently at an end, the river began dropping slowly yesterday afternoon.  However, it is believed that the ferry landing on the south side of the Skagit at the Concrete ferry is washed out, and it may take a few days to rebuild this.  The work will be rushed as soon as the water is low enough, and is it hoped to have the ferry in operation again in a few days.    The water in the Skagit did not get high enough to interfere with down river travel, nor was any damage done beyond shutting down the ferry service.  No signs of high water in the Baker River was noticeable, the Baker river dam holding the flood waters back, but water was flowing over the top of the dam yesterday for the first time in about a year.

Undocumented Flood Event


Not reported by Corps of Engineers.  Roads covered by water.  All ferries had to stop running.  No waters coming from the Baker until January 28 when water flowed over the dam.





The Skagit River has dropped back again, but ferry service up the river has not yet been resumed on the former standard.  After a few weeks of inactivity, they should make every effort possible to give those dependent upon them adequate service, but for some reason, ferries cease to run at six in the evening and do not resume until daylight.  The lack of ferry service at night is being felt in Concrete as much as in up-river communities.  Why can’t something be done to end this inconvenience?

Wanted Ferry Service At Night



power company building new line to upper valley

The Puget Sound Power & Light company recently decided to extend its power and light service lines are now being built between Concrete and the upriver community.  Erection of the pole line was started about a week ago from the Rockport end, and poles are now in place to a point about a mile on this side of the Sauk post-office.  Most of the crew employed on this work are making their headquarters in Concrete, and a number of the men have moved their families to this city and will make their homes here until the work is completed.  It is estimated that it will take a month or six weeks to complete the Concrete-Rockport line.  The new line will provide electric light and power service for the communities of Van Horn, Sauk and Rockport, and for the farmers residing along the highway between this city and Rockport.    So far no extension to the south side of the Skagit at Sauk is contemplated, as the farms and residences are too widely scattered to make an extension to that district feasible at this time.

Electricity Extended To Upriver Above Concrete


Rockport, Van Horn and Sauk on the north side to get electricity.  Sauk river on the south side did not get electricity.



baker lake foreman to supervise hatchery

Leslie W. Dunn, foreman at the government fish hatchery at Baker Lake, left this morning for Enumclaw, where he will supervise the construction of a new government hatchery about thirty miles from that city. Mr. Dunn expects to remain at Enumclaw until the hatchery is completed, which he estimates will take two or three months. Ralph W. Young, who was recently transferred from Baker Lake to Lake Crescent hatchery, will return to Baker Lake and act as foreman until Mr. Dunn returns. Mr. Young is expected to arrive here in about two weeks, and until he comes, Harry Hill will be acting foreman at the hatchery.

Fish Issue


Baker Lake fish hatchery still operating and still called the “government hatchery” as in Federal government.




Someone once stated the saying “poor fish.” After visiting the Baker river dam we say it ought to be revised. In order that the fish may get up the river to spawn, a regular trolley and elevator service is kept in operation carrying fish over the dam into Lake Shannon. The fish coming up the Baker are caught in a trap, lifted into water filled tanks and transported by rail and cable to the lake above the dam, and then towed a mile up the lake before being released. All this keeps a crew of men sweating in the hot sun and then they say “poor fish.” But then every fish has his day.

Fish Issue


Fish transported over the dam by “trolly and elevator service”.


flood control will not be assured until ruby creek dam is finally completed says engineer


Present dams on the upper Skagit River would not provide flood control for the Skagit Valley in the event of a flood like that of 1917 or 1921. . . A big flow of water would fill the Diablo basin in one day, and would continue over the dam with the same disastrous effects as in previous years, said Smith.  Existing dams serve a good purpose in holding back sudden small freshets and also tend to maintain a higher water level in the valley during extremely dry years, but no safety from heavy floods can be felt until the completion of the Ruby Creek dam, the final unit of the Seattle project. 



The completion of this dam will render impossible even such floods as the one in 1815, which Indian tradition has it, submerged much of the Skagit Valley to a depth of fifteen feet, the engineer believes.  It is hoped by the city of Seattle that money can be obtained from the national government to assist with the construction of Ruby Creek dam, which is now being delayed on account of financial crisis.  At the present outlook, the dam may not be built for five or even ten years . . . People of Skagit Valley will be appealed to for aid in an effort to get such an appropriation on the grounds of flood control.




Statement attributed to Glen Smith, assistant to J.D. Ross.