Highway has been shut since Aug. 19 by wildfires. The North Cascades National Park visitor center, campgrounds, trails will reopen along with the road.
The North Cascades Highway is expected to reopen on Sunday, along with facilities and trails in North Cascades National Park.
The popular scenic highway in North Central Washington has been closed for more than a week because of a wildfire near the small community of Newhalem, Whatcom County.
The fire, part of what’s called the Upper Skagit complex of wildfires, and road closure forced the shutdown of the park’s visitor center and campgrounds near Newhalem and cut access to many popular hiking trails and to Ross Lake. The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center also was evacuated.
The North Cascades Highway leads to the tourism-dependent Methow Valley, where the towns of Winthrop and Twisp have been hit by heavy smoke from the Okanogan complex of wildfires as well as the road closure. Locals have been anxiously awaiting the highway’s reopening.
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The Washington State Department of Transportation said Friday afternoon that, “Fire officials with the Great Basin Incident Management Team 4 said today that current fire behavior and predicted wet weather no longer necessitate the closure of SR 20. Rains predicted for the next week will slow the fire down enough to allow for access through the park.”
Road and drainage ditches are being cleared of rocks and trees downed by the fire, and WSDOT tentatively plans to reopen the highway at noon Sunday.
“Sunday morning we will need to re-evaluate the slopes to see if this weekend’s rains brought more debris onto the road,” said Assistant Regional Administrator for Maintenance Dave McCormick in a press release. “Safety is always our top priority.”
In North Cascades National Park, facilities near Newhalem that will reopen along with the highway include the park’s main visitor center and Colonial Creek, Goodell Creek and Gorge Lake campgrounds. Newhalem Creek campground will remain closed until next spring. The fire has weakened trees in the area which could fall.
The North Cascades Highway was closed on Aug. 19, from Newhalem east to Rainy Pass; the fire crossed the highway.
Wildfire conditions can change rapidly. Phone the North Cascades Highway Hotline at 360-707-5055 for updates or go to wsdot.wa.gov (click on ‘travel alerts”).
See a Seattle Times story on how to check on wildfire smoke and road closures throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and B.C.