History of Darrington

Darrington, Washington's History

The upper Stillaguamish valley where Darrington is now located was once settled by the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe in the drainage of the Sauk, Suiattle and White Chuck rivers for many generations.  They were a people of the rivers and the mountains gathering from nature what they needed to sustain life.  Their canoes were crafted from a single cedar log and their skills at navigating the rivers with their dugout canoes is still considered legendary in the Darrington area. 
In 1870 a group of surveyors working for the Northern Pacific Railroad came to the area to chart a pass over the Cascade Mountains to the Wennatchee Valley and they encountered the Sauk-Suiattle tribe.  Tribal members helped them to find a pass over the mountains, but in spite of this the Northern Pacific Railway chose a route farther south.



Gold was discovered in the Summer of 1889 and prospectors flooded into the Cascade Mountains seeking their fortune.  Many of the prospectors traveled from the Skagit River south to Monte Cristo on foot and later a road was punched all the way through making it easier to bring in equipment.  The location where Darrington is now became a half way point and good place to camp.  Prospectors began to explore the local mountains and a boomtown called "Starve Out" came about.  It was July 22, 1891 that the townspeople filed paper work to get a post office and the name Darrington was chosen.

There is a historical marker in Darrington
 that marks where the old road once came through town,
photo by Martha Rasmussen

The Northern Pacific Railroad came to Darrington June 1, 1901. The idea was to bring the train out to these parts so that all the gold ore could be shipped to the stamper in Everrett.  Many claims were made in the surrounding mountains, but most of the prospectors had little to show for all the hard work, and many drifted northward to the Klondyke gold rush.
First Train To Darrington, photo from Darrington Historical Society

With the train reaching Darrington, this opened up the possibilities of timber harvest.  Several
small sawmills started up in the area and with them small towns and communities. In 1905 the Bureau Of Forestry, (now the U.S. Forest Service) began surveying valuable timber lands and building
 fire lookouts to safeguard against fires.  The mountain peaks surrounding the Darrington area were dotted with fire lookouts, many of the recreational trails that hikers enjoy in the area today were once the roads and trails to these lookouts.  Today only 4 lookouts remain.  Over the years most of the small sawmills closed or merged with the large mill in town, which is now Hampton Lumber Mill. 
Early logging, photo from Darrington Historical Society

Darrington incorporated in October 15, 1945 and built a new city hall.  The city hall housed city clerk and mayor's office, fire department and a community center with a dance floor up stairs.  It was the same year that the town started a tradition that would last for decades called the "Timberbowl" with its grand parade, logging competitions, great bluegrass music and the Timberbowl Queen and her princesses.  It all started out as a fundraiser to buy a new fire truck to put in the new city hall. The first Timberbowl dance was held upstairs in the new community center.

The Queens Float in the Timberbowl Parade, photo from Darrington Historical Society

The people of Darrington and our neighbors to the north, the Sauk-Suiattle tribe, hold history, heritage and the love of the outdoors close.  Today timber harvest is still an important part of the economy as well as the vast outdoor  recreational opportunities surrounding the area.  Many people come to the area to explore hundreds of miles of wilderness trails or enjoy one of the many special events in the area like Darrington's famous Bluegrass Festival.  Darrington has seen many changes over the years, the train tracks that once connected us with the rest of the world were torn out in 1994 to make way for the new Whitehorse Rails-To-Trails.

Early days of camping, photo from the Darrington Historical Society 

Written by Martha Rasmussen
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