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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.