“A sense of security seemed to come from these mountains; it was like living in the hollow of the cupped hand of God.” –Jean Bedal Fish
Darrington, a small mountain town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, stands where two rivers once joined in a valley between the Sauk and the Stillaguamish rivers, and between Gold Hill to the east and Whitehorse Mountain to the west. Shifting sand and river rock formed a portage surrounded by towering Douglas fir and cedar trees. Over time a community took root, a town grew, and a history formed.
The Sauk-Suiattle tribe was first to settle the valley, traveling in canoes carved from cedar and fishing the rivers for salmon and steelhead. In the summer and fall, they journeyed into the mountains to gather berries and collect wool from mountain goats. The Sauk Prairie, well known for its fertile soils and multitude of edible roots, was their village site. Later, miners from the east arrived in search of gold in these same mountain rivers, followed by loggers who came to harvest the dense forests of fir and cedar. Many of the loggers came from the South and from Sweden. With them, they brought traditional ways, food, and music that is still evident today. You can still enjoy the music of the South at the Bluegrass Music Festival in mid-July.
Today, the town has about 1,405 residents and serves another 1,200 people in the surrounding areas. The primary economy is still the timber industry. The Town is home to a variety of small logging and lumber companies as well as Hampton Lumber’s state of the art mill. However, Darrington is also using its unique location near the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and Wilderness to promote recreation as a strong force in the local economy. At 550 feet above sea level, the town is in close proximity to three wilderness areas where mountaineers explore the rock and ice of the surrounding peaks, and rafters and haymakers brave the waters of the rivers. All can enjoy over 328 miles of hiking and horse trails, numerous picnic sites, scenic roads, waterfalls, alpine lakes, and old growth forests.
The U.S. Forest Service, Darrington Ranger District manages the area’s timber, recreation, fish and wildlife, air and water quality, wilderness, minerals, and energy resources. The Forest Service and its employees are active participants in community life in Darrington and have contributed by obtaining grants for diverse projects including a non-profit early childhood learning center, informational kiosks in the town park, and preserving some of our oldest buildings.
One of the largest employers is the Darrington School District, which educates approximately 570 children each year. With a single K-12 campus, the district is a close-knit community of students, teachers, and administrators. The community takes great pride in its schools and actively participates in the many school activities whether it is sporting events, the school play, or art exhibitions. Students in Darrington have achieved state and national recognition in academics, sports, and the arts. Many have continued on to top universities and the District continues to increase its percentage of college-bound students.
As economies shift and the population changes, the rivers, rocks, trees, and mountains persevere. Today, as before, people come to Darrington to dream, explore, form families, communities and find somewhere in between the past and the future that is today.