History of The Sunset Highway
As a longtime resident of the Wenatchee Valley, I've driven Sunset Highway, in East Wenatchee more than I can count. This stretch of road is part of a historic highway system that connected the Seattle area with Spokane.
The Sunset Highway, a major state highway, was established in 1913 and officially completed on July 1, 1915. The original 1915 route started at the Pacific Highway in Renton. It continued east to North Bend, crossed the Snoqualmie Pass, and wound through the towns of Easton, Cle Elum, and Ellensburg. From there, it extended east to Vantage, where a ferry was required to cross the Columbia River. Once on the east side of the river, the road went north to Quincy and then west to another ferry across the Columbia.
To reach Wenatchee, the highway followed the Old Colockum Road to the north. Upon reaching Wenatchee, travelers would cross the Columbia once more using the Old Wenatchee Bridge that dates back to 1908. Nowadays, the Wenatchee Valley' Pedestrian Bridge is just that - a bridge used solely for pedestrian purposes.
After crossing, travelers rode on what we still today call Sunset Highway. The route continued north, passing by the town of Orondo. Following this, the road heads north to Waterville before eventually turning east towards Spokane. It's worth noting that in 1913, a modern concrete bridge was constructed over Latah Creek, replacing the old wagon road and offering a more convenient approach for motorists heading towards the city.
In 1922, the highway was improved, and the route was changed. After reaching Cle Elum from Seattle, the new route went north over Blewett Pass (what today is known as Old Blewett Pass seen below) to Peshastin and then east to Wenatchee. In the late 1920s, the Bothell branch was established, giving motorists the option to drive around the north or south end of the lake. The Yellowstone Trail also used the Kirkland Ferry to reach Seattle from Fall City.
By the mid-1930s, the concrete paving of the highway was completed between Seattle and Spokane. The road was officially designated as State Road No. 2 (HWY 2 today) Primary State Route No. 2, and U.S. Highway 10. In 1936, the Echo Lake cut-off was completed, which created a new route bypassing Fall City, Snoqualmie, and North Bend.
Next time you're stuck behind a vehicle driving 5 under the speed limit on the East Wenatchee Sunset Highway: Imagine traffic, 100 years ago. Someone was stuck behind a wagon heading back to the ranch or orchard, full of monthly provisions.
INFO SOURCE: sunset-hwy.com
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