North Cascades Highway - Gorge Powerhouse and Ladder Creek Falls


What? :

There are two things to see when you visit here, the powerhouse turbine room and the surrounding garden. Ladder Creek Falls Garden, with a short loop trail and small waterfall.



Where? :

Located in Newhalem, Washington, on the side of the North Cascades Highway. There are road-side pullout parking on the south side of highway 20, just above the Skagit River.

Google Map Link



When? :

Open year-round, opening hours of the observation deck may vary.

Check Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) what are the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) status. The road may be partly closed for the winter.



Due note 1: The garden and the turbine visitor deck are free of charge.


Due note 2: I do not see this a must visit location, but it is only short stop along your North Cascades Highway drive.


Due note 3: If you plan on camping or hiking in the area, stop by the North Cascades National Park Visitor’s Center in Newhalem.



My thoughts:

A short stop on my North Cascades Highway drive.

I cross the large, suspended bridge and walk through the park taking the right direction. I reach the waterfall, but it is not so visible from the trail.

After walking around the garden, I reach the back side of the powerhouse and got inside to see the turbines from above and to learn about Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.

Overall, I spend here for about 30-40 minutes, a fun stop on my drive.



The visit:

The Skagit River Hydroelectric Project is a series of 3 large dams with hydroelectric power-generating stations on the Skagit River. The project is owned and operated by Seattle City Light to provide electric power for the City of Seattle.

Construction of Gorge Dam (300 feet) began in 1921 and the first power was delivered to Seattle in 1924. Later in 1930 Diablo Dam (389 feet) was completed and in 1953 the last stage of Ross Dam (540 feet) construction was completed.


The three dams holding behind them three large lakes: Lake Chelan, Diablo Lake, and the longest and largest one, Ross Lake.


You can walk to the powerhouse and garden side of the Skagit River by crossing the car bridge on your left or the large pedestrian suspension bridge on your right.

The car bridge, originally was a train bridge, was built in 1935 to accommodate Gorge Powerhouse construction equipment and materials.

The impressive pedestrian suspension bridge was originally built in 1920 to provide construction workers with access to the powerhouse site. Since the 20’s it has been rebuilt twice.


This small powerhouse has a self-guided visitor gallery which is open to the public, the entrance is on the back far side of the powerhouse.

Here you can find educational information about the history of the Skagit Hydropower Project, and you can see the turbine room from above.


Around the powerplant there is a small garden where you can walk the paved trail just above the powerhouse. There is a nice waterfall partly hidden in the ravine on the upper right side of the garden, just on the right side of the long staircase.





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