The Everett &
Monte Cristo Railroad was built in 1892—1893 to transport gold and silver ore
from mines at Monte Cristo deep in the Cascade Mountains to a new smelter at
Everett, WA. Railroad surveyor M.
Q. Barlow selected a route that avoided the steep, treacherous canyon of the
South Fork of the Stillaguamish upstream of Granite Falls.
But eastern financiers and railroad “experts”, working for John D.
Rockefeller, dictated a more direct route through the canyon in order to save
expensive trestling required on Barlow’s route.
segment of the railway required boring of six tunnels through the steep canyon
walls. Much of the railroad was
built on wooden cribbing at the edge of what the eastern experts referred to as
a “trout stream.” When the November floods swelled the “trout stream” into
a thundering torrent of whitewater, the railroad was wiped out.
Starting in 1892 and continuing through the railroad’s demise in 1933,
the effort to maintain the rail line required yearly battles to repair damage
from rockslides and fall flooding in the canyon.
turn of the century, the railway underwent a transition from ore transport to
logging. But throughout its
operation, the railway was famous as a scenic excursion to view the wild beauty
of the canyon and the mountains beyond. In
1921, the Inn at Big Four near Silverton was built as a railroad destination
resort. Trolley cars and
automobiles outfitted with flanged wheels carried passengers on the scenic ride
up the rail line, through the canyon, to the Inn and on to Monte Cristo.
history of the park…
In the late
1960s, Boy Scout Troop 43 of Lake Stevens built a trail from the Mountain Loop
Highway to the original town site of Robe at the head of Robe Canyon. Though
the property was privately owned, the public used the trail for 25 years to
access the town site and the railway tunnels at the upper end of the canyon.
capping an effort led by the Stillaguamish Citizens’ Alliance and River
Network, local leaders including State Senator Kevin Quigley, County Executive
Bob Drewell, and County Councilman John Garner secured 160 acres at the head of
the canyon for Snohomish County’s new Robe Canyon Historic Park.
Further efforts led to the addition of 800 acres in 1997. In 2001, Cascade Land Conservancy facilitated acquisition of
an added 30 acres to expand the park near the old Robe town site.
Today, Robe Canyon Historic Park is one of the county’s largest parks
at almost 1,000 acres, affording protection for 7 miles of the wild South Fork
The park also
protects remnants of the long-abandoned Everett & Monte Cristo Railway and a
century-old lime kiln. Each year,
the existing Old Robe Trail is used by thousands of hikers who come to explore
the abandoned railway, marvel at the powerful river cascading in the narrow
canyon, and enjoy the solitude of near-wilderness only minutes from the growing
Puget Sound metropolis.
addition to the Old Robe Trail (2 miles) which the Scouts built 30 years ago, in
coming years the park will also feature the Lime Kiln Trail (3.5 miles) now
under construction as an all-volunteer, community project.