Sunday, June 23, 2013

WAWeekend: Having a blast on Snoqualmie Pass

It was a blast on Snoqualmie Pass that led to this post.  Quite literally.

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Snoqualmie Pass, about an hour east of Seattle, was once the hunting ground and homeland of the Native Americans tribe, the Snoqualmie (snow-qwal-me).

It now the highest point on  Interstate 90, Washington’s major east-west link.

Road improvements near the pass’s 3,022-foot high summit are prompting sporadic road closures of an hour or so and reduced speeds. 

Thursday evening’s blasting tossed and tumbled so many boulders onto the roadway that crews were still feverishly working hours later  to open the roadway by mid-Friday morning. 

That would be the same Friday as my scheduled one one-day road trip to Eastern Washington.

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I was among the hundreds of travelers who were waiting for the road to open. The good news was that I’d reached the summit’s recreation/rest area just minutes before the backup stretched beyond its exit.
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Ellensburg 009The summit at one time had little more than a Rest Stop.
Today,that same rest stop has been joined by ski areas and their lift stations, a vacation home development, a hotel and several coffee shops, one of which is located in the historic rest stop.

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That caf√©/store, Red Mountain Coffee, (pictured above) was doing a brisk business. 

Next door, in the entry hall to the public restrooms, the state has mounted a framed narrative of the history of Snoqualmie Pass. And quite a history it has:  

In June 1858: Seattle area men, believed to be miners, cleared a trail to Lake Keechelus,  ([pictured below) just east of the summit.
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1865– 1867:The trail was widened and could then accommodate wagons, although weather destroyed it regularly requiring it to be rebuilt. It also required travelers to ferry across Lake Keechelus.  (Some on-line sources say portions of the old wagon road can be seen from the area’s Denny Campground.)

1884 – 1887:  An Ellensburg company improved the road further – but travelers had to pay a toll when using it.

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1905:The first auto drove over the pass on what was then called, Sunset Highway.

1934: the roadway was paved.
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Roadway improvements continued and in 1981 the roadway lanes were split with west bound opening west of the Snoqualmie River and Denny Creek on a bridge span 200-feet high.

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2005 – 2017:  The state Legislature approved the  Transportation Partnership Account gas tax, which secured $551 million to improve the first five miles of the corridor to the east of the summit (notorious for snow slides that often close the road in winter).

The work involves adding a lane in each direction, replacing deteriorating concrete, adding and replacing bridges and culverts, extending chain up/off areas and replacing the snow shed (think open air tunnel over the freeway) just east of the Snoqualmie Pass Summit with another structure to reduce winter avalanche closures.

This portion of the project is scheduled to be complete in 2017.

If You Go:

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Expect delays and reduced speed areas when traveling over Snoqualmie Pass.  Blasting continues and schedulesfor closures resulting from it  – as well as road conditions – can be found at the Washington State Department of Transportation, click WSDOT.

Have you ever hit a road block on a road trip?  What did you do while waiting to resume your travels?

That’s it for this weekend. Hope you are having a good one what ever road you are following. . .come back soon!


  1. You brought back happy memories for me today. :-) I used to live about an hour away from here and love the mountain pics. :-)

  2. So glad it brought back memories! Which way did you live? West side or East side?

  3. I try to remember to stuff a good book in my bag when I'm going on any sort of car ride; that prevents me from going antsy when you do get stopped= and I have been stopped plenty of times on the Sea to Sky Highway going to Whistler. though I think it's getting better.

    1. I must remember to do that when I set out as I never have enough time for reading these days. (Much to my amazement I had wi-fi while sitting in that parking lot so I could use my phone to tweet and post to FB and do emails.

  4. Some of the pictures remind me of Banff. Love the Lake Keechelus photo.

    1. Thanks for stopping by today Salika. Hope you'll be a regular here. I love your Gawaya Travel Blog. . .will spend a bit more time on it in the near future.

  5. That such a blast indeed. It was good that you reached the summit in time. Love your shot of the Lake as well as the old photos. I can imagine that the interstate and the pass must be very scenic drive.

  6. Looks like it must be quite a spectacular area from what you show here, Jackie. I don't travel without music (jazz/classical) and a book or too... just in case.

  7. Love the cloud cover!

    I host a weekly link party called "Oh, the PLACES I've been!" The link goes up at 7pm EST on Thursday. I hope to see you then!

    - The Tablescaper


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