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American Roads: Site Map > Auto Trails > Auto Trail Articles > New York Times article January 7 1917


National Parks Highway Extends from the Great Lakes to Spokane, Connecting Three National Parks on the Way.

― from The New York Times, January 7 1917.


The same pioneering that took place in laying out the great transcontinental railroad lines is now being done in laying out transcontinental automobile routes. From the northern line to the Mexican border the courses of rivers and mountain passes in the Western country are being prospected for routes that will offer the most in scenic attraction and ease of travel.
One of the latest to make a bid for popularity is the National Parks Highway. Lawrence H. Brown, Secretary of the Washington State Good Roads Association, in presenting the claims of this route for tourist travel, says of it: “The National Parks Highway extends from the Great Lakes by way of Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, the Twin Cities, Fargo, Bismarck, Billings, Butte, Anaconda, Missoula, and Spokane to Seattle and Tacoma, connecting the three National Parks.
“This route is rich in beauty from the moment it leaves Chicago at Highland Park and all along the shore of Lake Michigan to Milwaukee through the fascinating lake country and fertile fields of Wisconsin. For more than sixty miles it winds up and down along the Mississippi from La Crosse, Wis., Into Winona, Minn., and beyond on the road to Lake City, where it skirts Lake Pepin, looking across on an inland Summer resort country that has a future second to none in America.
“Leaving the Twin Cities the National Parks Highway pierces the heart of the Minnesota lake region, and in a drive of 100 miles, beginning a short distance west of St. Cloud, there are at the roadside, or in sight, more than 100 lakes which centre about Alexandria and Osakis. Passing into the more level country of Eastern North Dakota, where in Midsummer the tourist sees endless fields of growing grain. Further west the more rolling country of North Dakota is reached over level roads through Valley City and Jamestown to Bismarck, the site of the historic old Fort Lincoln from which Custer began his last march against the Sioux Indians to the Battle of the Big Horn.
“Thence the highway leads to one of the most picturesque regions of the Northwest called the Bad Lands, more correctly known as Pyramid Park, with long lines of wonderful cliffs and highly colored buttes carved into the most fantastic forms.
“Then we pass into Montana and between Glendive and Livingston through Miles City, Forsyth, and Billings, follow near the Yellowstone River for more than 300 miles in the country made famous by Lewis and Clarke. From Livingston a lateral of the National Parks Highway enters Yellowstone National Park by way of Gardiner. The road winds along the lands of the Cheyennes, the Crows, and the Flatheads.
“The Rockies are crossed between Livingston and Bozeman through Rock Canyon. The big smelters of Anaconda and Butte on the sides of the mountains overlook the highway and give the tourist his first real conception of the bigness of the copper mining industry in that section of the West.
“West of Butte the route follows for some distance the Hellgate River toward Missoula, where the Bitter Root Valley opens before the traveler. A detour is here taken to the northward to Kalispell, the gateway to Glacier National Park, one of the newest of America’s Summer playgrounds.
“Kalispell is near Flathead Lake, which is the second largest body of fresh water in the United States, aside from Lake Michigan. Thence we go into Northern Idaho to a lake and mountain region which retains all its original wildness, except for the Summer cottages on Lake Pend Oreille and the marks left by the mining prospector on the mountain side. This lake fills a long wide gorge in the very heart of the mountains, and besides being the most expansive body of fresh water in the United States, excepting Lake Michigan, it is perhaps the deepest. Tributary to the road further on toward Spokane are Coeur d’Alene and Hayden Lakes in mountains that abound in trout streams and game.
“From this point the highway drops through the apple orchards of the Spokane Valley into the City of Spokane with its beautiful falls in the heart of the city, with its scenic rim rock skirted with beautiful homes. Here the traveler sees the longest railroad bridge in the world, the massive structure of steel and concrete which carries the trains of the Union Pacific and Milwaukee over the Monroe Street Bridge, itself a great structure, from the Union Station to the solid earth roadbed far beyond, a distance of 3,400 feet.
“The Grand Coulee of the Columbia River and the Wenatchee Valley are crossed and there the tourist enters the real Switzerland of America, the Cascade Mountains, crossing through Snoqualmie Pass on a perfectly hard surfaced road with no grades steeper than 5 per cent. Here the drop begins into the City of Seattle on Puget Sound, the largest deep sea harbor in the world, a city of beautiful parks and paved streets from which can be seen snow capped Mount Rainier in Rainier National Park, back of the City of Tacoma, the western terminus of the National Parks Highway. At this point the traveler has covered from Chicago something more than 2,600 miles and has viewed more charming scenery of level or rolling landscape, of beautiful lakes, high peaks, and jagged mountain ranges than can be seen from an automobile in the same distance anywhere else in the world.”


Copyright © S. Varner 2006