History of Stehekin

Long ago, Native Americans named it Stehekin – “the way through” – because it was one of few travel routes through the formidable barrier of the North Cascades.
Today, visitors will find a community of 95 people who thrive in the isolation of this beautiful valley. Although there are 15 miles of road in Stehekin, the fact that no roads come into the valley from the outside helps shape the character of this remarkable place and the thoughtful quality of life that its residents share. Most visitors arrive by boat, a few come by air, but a surprising number hike into this remote valley following the same cross-mountain routes used for centuries by the Native Americans.

Golden West Visitor Center

The National Park Service’s Golden West Visitor Center opened in 1927 as “the Golden West Lodge,” a resort hotel. Today, the Golden West welcomes you with information on all Stehekin activities including Park Service evening programs, naturalist talks and children’s activities. Ask for your free copy of the Self-Guided Walking/Biking Tour to Rainbow Falls. Backpackers can get camping permits, maps and information on trails and weather conditions. “A Wilderness Place” is an entertaining 10-minute video about Stehekin and the surrounding wilderness. Book lovers can browse the bookstore and the “Golden West Gallery” features art of the North Cascades.

Historic Buckner Orchards

The property that now comprises the Buckner Orchard was homesteaded in 1889 by Bill Buzzard. After clearing about an acre of land, Mr. Buzzard built a log cabin, which is still Historic Buckner Orchards in Stehekin on Lake Chelan standing today, and planted a large garden. He also cut many of the large trees on the homestead and sold them to mills down lake or as fuel for the steamers which supplied mines in the upper valley. Steamers required 6 to 12 cords of wood to make the round trip.
In 1911, ownership changed hands to the Buckner family, who arrived in Stehekin with fairly elaborate plans to develop what they called Rainbow Ranch. Apples were their focus and the first thing needed was water. The hand-dug ditch still carries irrigation water to the orchard today. The Buckner Ranch and 90 acres of surrounding area are now listed as the Buckner Homestead National Historic District. The property was sold to the National Park Service in 1970 and they offer guided walks on weekends during the summer. Every year in October, Stehekin celebrates a Harvest Festival organized by the Buckner Homestead Heritage Foundation. In the fall, visitors and locals are encouraged to pick apples and make their own apple juice.

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