A History of Skagit Tours (closed caption)

“Perhaps you’re wondering what all this
has to do with electricity…” This old film about the Skagit River
explains how the city of Seattle generates hydro-electric power in the
North Cascades …”By using generators we are able to
convert a large amount of physical force to
electrical force.” But a movie is no substitute for seeing
it yourself in person To do just that, Seattle City Light every
summer offers tours of the dams and powerhouses it operates on the Skagit, in and around the community of Newhalem. It’s a tradition that goes back
decades. Skagit Tours have been around for a long time. It’s a historical piece of the Skagit Project. In the beginning, we
used to bring up about three thousand people a month and house them and feed them overnight and do a
tour. Seattle City Light built the Skagit
Project back in the 1930s and 40s. Together, the dams there now generate
about one-fifth of the city’s electrical needs. Up until the 1950s, Skagit Tour visitors would ride a train from Rockport all the way to Newhalem, City Light’s company town for this Skagit
Project. Those days, there was a cafeteria and rustic overnight accommodations, and
there was a massive outdoor elevator called an incline lift. The cafeteria and the lift are gone, but
there’s still plenty to see and do on a modern day Skagit Tour. First of all, you get a boat ride and see Diablo Lake, and that’s really cool when you go up to canyon. One of the primary things that that we
want people come here for is to see the powerhouse, the generators, the turbines. They’ll actually get to put their hand on a
rotating shaft of a turbine runner, and so that’s a cool thing. You couldn’t
do that before. Just being here and seeing what your
investment or what you’re paying your power bill for what is producing for you, because these
are a wonderful asset to the city. If you don’t have time to sign up for a
guided tour, it’s still worth pulling off of Highway
20 at Newhalem. You can take a walk around the historic
town, where there’s lots to see and do for all ages, at your own pace. In Newhalem, we have a visitor center. We have a walking tour of the town. You can even do a little Skagit shopping.
If you get a chance, you need to check out the Skagit General Store. It’s really
an icon for City Light. At the city-run general store, you can
get sandwiches, cold drinks, and snacks…. “I consider myself
a fudge expert. I can cut it almost right to
the ounce.” …including the world famous
Skagit fudge. So I have rocky road, which is my
favorite, and is one of the popular sellers. What’s
special about it is it’s made right here on the Skagit, with our little fudge maker and we
add our own little special ingredients. There’s actually a lot of special
ingredients that make the Skagit Tour worthwhile. And really what these projects are for
the city of Seattle is its investment and what we would like everyone in Seattle
come up here and see what their investment is. It’s really an important asset for them that
they really should be proud of, just like we are here at Skagit. “This is the story of the power of
a river, harnessed by the people of the city to
lighten the burdens of man. Yes, this is the story of the river, Skagit.”
Learning about Seattle City Light’s clean and green hydropower today is just
as important as it was 75 years ago, and just as much fun too. Watch CityStream Thursday nights at seven on the Seattle channel or get video on-demand and podcasts anytime at seattlechannel.org.

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