About Tonasket, Washington

Hello! Let me tell you about the best-kept secret in Washington State: the hidden treasure of Tonasket—a charming, mining-themed town of about 1,000 people in north central Washington.

Tonasket is located 260 miles northeast of Seattle, 165 miles northwest of Spokane and 20 miles south of the Canadian border. The town is at the intersection of US Highway 97 and State Highway 20—28 miles north of Okanogan, the county seat, and 16 miles south of Oroville, which is the last town before the Canadian border.

Tonasket was originally settled as an Indian encampment and named after its leader, Chief Tonasket. Established in the late 1800’s, the town was incorporated in 1927. Apple, pear, peach, apricot, plum, and cherry orchards, wineries, cattle ranches, dude ranches, farms and rugged mountain wilderness with sage-covered foothills surround the town.

The downtown is along the Okanogan River and has an inviting small town atmosphere. There are no chain stores here, just friendly Mom and Pop establishments, including a post office, hospital, typical banking, grocery, pharmacy, medical, hardware and automotive services, a tavern, a bar, two gas stations, a pizzeria, three restaurants, a Mexican bakery, some handicraft shops, an organic food store (Okanogan River Natural Foods Co-op—21 W 4th St., (509) 486-4188), an alternative energy mecca (Okanogan Solar—306 W 4th St, (509) 486-4508) and five antique shops. The Tonasket Chamber of Commerce (215 Whitcomb Avenue, (509) 486-4543) provides information, maps and local souvenirs. It is adjacent to a small park featuring an impressive mural honoring the region’s Native American heritage.

There are many public activities for the drop in visitor. The Community Cultural Project (411 Western Avenue; (509) 486-1328) has events nearly every day, including drumming circles, dancing, coffee house evenings, toddler play times, ESL classes, rummage sales and seasonal bazaars. For those who want to do yoga, belly dancing or practice martial arts, Cariker’s Academy of Self-Defense (509 Tonasket Avenue; contact Kim at (509) 486-1021) has daily classes.

Tonasket’s History Park borders the Okanogan River and has 4.7 acres with trees and grass, playground equipment, picnic tables, a basketball court, horseshoe pit and BBQ pits. A heated swimming pool is open June through September. Just south of downtown, Lagoons Park & Ball Field is also on the river and has a public boat launch.

Summer activities include swimming, boating, fishing and water-skiing in rivers and lakes (Whitestone, Osoyoos, Wannacut, Bonaparte, Crayfish, Fish, Blue, Spectacle, Palmer and Chopaka Lakes are all short drives from town), horseback riding, hiking, city and mountain biking, camping (there are at least 12 official campgrounds as well as many unofficial wilderness settings), berry picking, picnicking, bird watching, hunting, golfing (courses in Omak, Oroville and just over the border in Osoyoos and Oliver in the Canadian Okanagan), visiting farms, orchards and ranches. The largest wine-producing region in Canada is just a short drive north of the border where there are many vineyard tours. Stargazing is also popular as the night sky is dazzling. The stars are so bright on clear nights (they are visible up to the 7th magnitude) that no flashlight is needed for walking, even when there is no moon.

Tonasket has a weekly summer farmers market (Thursdays, 3-6pm) and numerous festivals to enjoy, including the Home and Garden Show (1st weekend in May), the Spring Barter Fair (Memorial Day weekend), Founder’s Day Celebration—with a parade, rodeo, BBQ and games (1 st weekend in June), Father’s Day Fly-In (featuring homebuilts and other small aircraft), Healing Gathering (Summer solstice weekend), Car Show (4 th weekend in June), Rodeo (1 st weekend in July), GarlicFest (4th weekend in August at 411 Western Avenue), Demolition Derby (1st Sunday in September), OctoberFest (1st Saturday in October), the huge, friendly Barter Fair (3rd weekend in October) and Winterfest (1st Friday in December). Information of all events is available from the Chamber of Commerce ((509) 486-4543).

There are many historical sites near Tonasket, including McLaughlin Canyon Battle Site (south), and to the east Historic Anglin Town site, Stage Shop & Cemetery, Aeneas Valley pictographs and Sunny Slope School & Pictographs. Lodging is available nearby at the Howell Canyon Estate (509-486-0587).

Tonasket is a convenient starting point for many breathtaking hikes in the vast Pasaytan Wilderness to the west and the Okanogan National Forest to the east.

Top hikes include, to the west (past Loomis), Chopaka Mountain, a nine-mile round-trip day climb that reveals a vast and panoramic view all the way to the Rocky Mountains (Kettle Range) and, to the east, Mount Bonaparte, a majestic green peak above pristine Bonaparte Lake. From the peak there’s a far ranging western view to the easternmost North Cascades and north to the Canadian Cascades and Osoyoos Lake. Beaver Lake, Beth Lake and Lost Lake are nearby. With its crystal blue waters and evergreen-lined shores, Lost Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen.

Nearby shorter hikes are also available, including Big Tree Botanical Loop (an easy 1.5 mile hike off Forest Service Road 33), which features an old growth (over 500-year-old) larch and pine forest, and Virginia Lilly Old-Growth Trail (an easy 3 mile loop off Forest Service Road 3240), which winds through an abundant wildlife area.

Winter visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing at Highland’s Sno Park (Forest Service, (509) 486-2186), 15 miles northeast of Tonasket on the east side of the road to Havillah and, 5 miles farther, downhill skiing at Sitzmark Ski Area ((509) 486-3323 or 486-2700). There are also many beautiful spots in nature for snowshoeing, sledding, ice fishing and snowmobiling.

The best places to eat in town are the Okanogan River Co-op Deli (weekday lunches 11:30-1:30, (509) 486-4188), the Tonasket Pizza Company (15 W 4 th, (509) 486-4808), Whistler’s Family Restaurant (616 S Whitcomb Avenue, (509) 486-2568) and Shannon’s Ice Cream and Steak House ((509) 486-2259).

Tonasket is part of the International Discovery Loop from Okanogan, Washington to Osoyoos, British Columbia (BC) to Castelgar BC to Colville, Washington and back to Okanogan. A smaller circle, the Highland Historic Loop Drive, goes from Tonasket through Oroville, Chesaw, Havillah, Toroda, Curlew, Malo, Republic, and Wauconda then back to Tonasket. These routes feature much culture, history and beauty in the small towns and lovely varied countryside in between. There are small museums and antique stores throughout the loops.

Okanogan has a large indoor and outdoor museum featuring local pioneer and Native American artifacts, sponsored by the Okanogan County Historical Society (1410 2 nd N, (509) 422-4272, 10am-4pm every day, all summer). It also has a weekly farmer’s market and nonstop summer activities, including the Okanogan County Fair (early September). For more information, contact the Okanogan Visitor Information Center (1030 2 nd Avenue N, (509) 422-9882).

A few miles north of Okanogan, Omak has a pleasant main street lined with unique stores, restaurants and an old movie theater. The 560-seat Performing Arts Center features a variety of theatrical and musical events ((509) 826-0323) and the Omak Presbyterian Church (Central and South Birch, (509) 826-1290) often has nonreligious musical and storytelling events open to the public. There are summer festivals in the lovely city park next to the library (30 S Ash Street, (509) 826-1820). For more information, contact the Omak Visitor Information Center (401 Omak Avenue, (509) 826-1880).

Located just across the Canadian border, Osoyoos is a lakeside resort with many orchards, sandy beaches, world-class golf courses, horseback riding and a desert wilderness area (Chamber of Commerce, (250) 495-7142). Vast, thick forests, rolling green farm hills and chalet-like houses that remind me of Switzerland lie to the east along Highway 3. My favorite stops on Highway 3 include Greenwood, a charming town that looks like 1930s small town America (for information, call (250) 445-6355) and, Grand Forks, a tree-lined small city with good restaurants and a charming park and pioneer museum (Chamber of Commerce, (250) 442-2833).

Oroville (estalished 1893) is slightly larger than Tonasket and has the fascinating Old Oroville Railroad Depot Historical Society Museum & Log House (contact Evelyn Christienson at (509) 476-3693 or Ethel Lindauer at 476-2303). Oroville also offers quaint antique stores (for example, Antiques Galore Collectibles and More contains twelve stores, (509) 476-2970) and restaurants. You’ll want to check out the authentic German brewery and restaurant, Alpine Brewing Company, which also offers tours (821 14 th Ave., (509) 476-9662) as well as Okanogan Estate Cellars wine tours ((509) 476-3646).

Seasonal activities include May Festival (2nd weekend in May), Can Am Power Boat Races (mid June), and the Apple Bin Boat Regatta (3rd Saturday in August). For more information about Oroville, contact the Oroville Chamber of Commerce (1730 Main, (509) 476-2739).

Fifteen miles east of Oroville is Molson (established 1900), one the west’s finest ghost towns. The old town is an outdoor museum (bank, school house, assessor’s office, railroad station, old machinery and wagons), with an extensive three-floor Molson School Museum (509-485-9921) nearby. Molson has an annual Summerfest (3rd Saturday in June) and offers Highland Stage Trail Rides ((509) 486-4699). It is near Sidley Lake and the historical town sites of Sidley and Kipling.

Seventeen miles east of Molson is Chesaw (established 1900). Chesaw’s big annual event is its 4th of July rodeo. The abandoned ranches and deserted mines are a reminder of days past when gold was king in the Okanogan Highlands. Two miles north of Chesaw, in a field near Pickering Farm, three weather-beaten pioneer buildings mark the main street of what was once the town of Bolster.

Havillah is a sleepy town with a beautiful church built in 1917. It has a cemetery from the early 1900’s and the Highland Stage Company ((509) 486-4699). Sitzmark Ski Area and Highland’s Sno Park are nearby.

Toroda (established 1898) is currently between Chesaw and Curlew and features old cemeteries, homesteads and Brown’s Sawmill (1937). Nearby Corkscrew Mountain is a site of geological interest and of Indian legend. The old mining boomtown of Toroda (established 1897) is four miles northeast of Wauconda where some of the original log buildings are still standing.

Twelve miles east of Toroda, Curlew (established 1900) boasts the Ansorage Hotel Museum (built 1900; (509) 779-4961) as well as Chief Tonasket’s burial site and store. There is a Catholic Indian Mission, old cemetery, shopping and dining. Nearby is Curlew Lake State Park, 128 acres on the southeastern shore of the lake surrounded by Colville National Forest. It is home to a variety of animals and birds and a place to see remnants of homesteaders’ cabins ((509) 775-3592).

Malo, seven miles south of Curlew, has many historical sites, including Malo Store (1903; (509) 779-4979), Grange Hall, Kermit’s School, Somday Allotment (Indian) Victorian House & Stage Shop, and Antique Car & Truck Museum & Indian Interpretive Center ((509) 779-4961).

Republic (established 1896), Ferry County’s seat, is twenty-two miles south of Malo. Originally known as Eureka because it was a gold boomtown, Republic has a charming historical district, a golf course (Sheridan Greens, (509) 775-2757), restaurants, a late 1800’s cemetery, a Murals & Historic Walking Tour and ancient fossil deposits that you can dig for yourself at the Stonerose Interpretive Fossil Center (15 N Kean, (509) 775-2295), which also houses the Republic Tourist Information Center ((509) 775-3387). The old Eureka Gold Gulch and Knob Hill Mine add further color to the area. Echo Bay Gold Mine ((509) 775-2883 or 779-4134) is still active but currently doesn’t offer public tours.

Republic features the PWRA Rodeo (June; (509) 775-3387 or 775-2704), Prospector Days (2nd weekend in June; (509) 775-2704), the Washington State Fiddle Contest (2nd weekend in August; (509) 775-3387 or 775-3819), and the Ferry County Fair (Labor Day weekend; (509) 775-3146 or 779-4691) as well as Stock Car Races (alternating summer weekends; (509) 775-3508) and Draft Horse Play Day & Show ((509) 775-3387). The Chamber of Commerce ((509) 775-2704) provides a full list of the over 50 annual events.

Wauconda (established 1898) is a tiny town with one public building, combining gas station, post office, store and home style restaurant (built 1928; 509-486-4010). Close by are scores of abandoned log cabins and deserted homes. Southwest of Wauconda in a grassy draw, is the Pflug Mansion (1908) and farther west, the Wauconda Pioneer Cemetery. East of town is the Old Wauconda Town site on the summit of Highway 20 and the Sweat Creek Camp Ground & Historic Site. Since 1914 there has been an annual Historic Flag Day Celebration (Sunday closest to Flag Day).

Greyhound (800-231-2222) and Northwestern Trailways (800-366-3830) provide daily bus service from Seattle and Spokane respectively, to Wenatchee and on to Omak. Amtrak (800-872-7245) has daily train service from Seattle and Spokane as far as Wenatchee. Cars can be rented in Wenatchee or Omak to drive to Tonasket. If you don’t have a car, contact the Estate for our reasonably-priced ride service.

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