Tumwater Canyon is a north-south trending canyon located on the western side of Chelan County, Washington. In general terms, the canyon's north end is where Highway 2 crosses over the Wenatchee River, and the canyon's south end is at the city of Leavenworth. The canyon is bordered on its western side by Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Icicle Ridge, and on its eastern side by Tumwater Mountain and an unnamed ridge located north of it.
Looking North In Tumwater Canyon
The canyon is estimated to be 3000' deep and nine miles long. In geology, most of the canyon rocks are of quartz diorite composition. The canyon is gradually sloped, and, as such, the highest point of Tumwater Canyon cannot be seen from the lowest point.
Tumwater Canyon (Photo Taken By Martin Cash)
The canyon is quite popular, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, Highway 2, one of the busiest interstate highways in the Northwest, passes through the entire length of the canyon. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people drive through the canyon during most weekends throughout each year.
Second, and perhaps most importantly to SummitPost, the canyon is a great place for hiking, peakbagging, rock-climbing, and even some ice-climbing. Both Icicle Ridge and Tumwater Mountain are popular hiking destinations. Each of these mountains also have multiple rock-climbing areas, especially at Josephine Crag near the northeastern end of Icicle Ridge and Castle Rock near the southwestern end of Tumwater Mountain.
Castle Rock, A Popular Rock-Climbing Area
Ice-climbing has also been known to occur in Tumwater Canyon, especially at Drury Falls, a 1267' high tiered waterfall as Fall Creek enters the canyon from Icicle Ridge. Coincidentally, the only location to see the entire Drury Falls waterfall system is from near the summit of Tumwater Mountain, located on the other side of the canyon.
Drury Falls (Photo Taken By Paul Klenke)
Another major recreational activity within the canyon is river usage. The Wenatchee River is a famous area for whitewater rafting and paddling. Four big water rapids sections as high as Class V, on the Wenatchee River within Tumwater Canyon, are quite popular during late Spring and early Summer. These rapids sections are called "The Wall", "Chaos Cascade", "Perfection Of Whitewater" (a.k.a. "POW"), and "Last Exit".
Despite its name appearing at first glance to be an English name or word, the canyon was actually given an Indian name. "Tumwater" is an Indian word meaning "strong water", or "falling water". The "tum" part of the word is derived from "tumtum", which in Chinook Indian jargon means the "sound of a beating heart". The name was chosen by former U.S. Forest Supervisor A.H. Sylvester many years ago, in reference to the Wenatchee River's rapids within Tumwater Canyon.
Wenatchee River Flowing Through Tumwater Canyon
Getting ThereFROM STEVENS PASS:
Drive east along Highway 2. After 24 miles, Tumwater Canyon is entered.
FROM LEAVENWORTH, WA:
Drive west along Highway 2. Tumwater Canyon is the first nine miles of the highway from the city.
Tumwater Campground is located along Highway 2 approximately 8.3 miles from the city of Leavenworth, just beyond the north end of Tumwater Canyon.
Sign Suggesting The Area Has "Strong Medicine"