11″ x 17″
Watercolor on historical map
Watercolor Historical Maps – Okanogan County
11″ x 17″
The Okanogan County, State of Washington map is undated and unsigned by the cartographer of a remarkably specific work. It may have been developed in the 1920’s during that heady era of hopes and dreams of prosperity. The homesteading years were behind, the Good Life, modernity was just ahead. Despite the outdated facts for the present-day, the careful details fascinate: mountain, lake, river, and route describe the landscape. Road numbers added, cemeteries positioned, every hamlet located and named, as though we might be thinking about a road trip along those back roads.
Many of the places on this map no longer exist, of course. Silver was wiped out by the flooding Methow River in 1894. Astor on the Columbia never did exist, except on paper. And while main and secondary roads are clearly marked, asphalt was not yet widely in use; conditions more suitable to horseback could be and often were brutal to the adventurous motorist. The county was still grading the route from Pateros near the south county line to Oroville at the US- Canada border in 1919. Nonetheless, those back roads were the only roads during the summer of 1948 when the Columbia River and tributaries Methow and Okanogan Rivers flooded and took out many bridges.
The route from the U.S.-Canada border at Oroville to the Columbia River has had historical importance since the Ice Age, when the interior valleys were used by migrants from Asia. The first white men in the Okanogan Valley followed this ancient native trail to transport furs from New Caledonia in the north to Old Fort Okanogan from 1812 to 1860. Cows followed on the 800-mile Cariboo Trail by 1870, taking grub-on- the-hoof to the Fraser, BC miners. On this map, the major route is State Highway 10, a new automobile road on the west side of the Okanogan River. In 1926 the road joined the new U.S. Highway 97 from Mexico to Canada as its northern-most leg; however many numbers on the shared route signs, Highway 10 retained its original Washington designation. A new roadway was built in the 1950’s on the east side of the river; old #10 was abandoned and Highway 97 proceeded north to the border – and beyond through Canada.
Like a faded picture of yesterday, it seems sort of encouraging to come across a road map of where we’ve been.