Posted by Ken Campbell December 31, 2010 0 Comment 1468 views

At one time, the Diablo dam was the tallest in the world. At 389 feet, it towers over the Skagit River far below, and the waters that it holds back form the lake of the same name, one of several in a chain of artificial lakes engineered for the sake of Seattle’s appetite for electrical power. What’s kind of cool (and hard to believe in these days of relentless national security concerns and that ol’ debbil, al-qaeda), is that the way to the put-in goes right over the top of the dam. It’s a single-lane road with the lake on one side and a precipitous dropoff on the other.

There were six of us paddling on this particular day, here at the end of another year. At 1200 feet, there was some snow on the ground but the temperature was relatively warm and the wind scoured the surface of the water as we left the shore near the parking area. A half-hour or so later, we were heading up the old river course toward the dam on Ross Lake, the next lake up the chain. The walls closed in and waterfalls and rivulets seemed to come from all sides. As the way narrowed, the wind became less of a factor and I lagged behind the others, listening to the sound of the falling water as it mixed with the thoughts inside my head.

I am a salt-water soul and although I do have a special place in my heart for rivers, I can’t help but think of places like Diablo Lake as something other. Something other than a wild beach or a roaring river. Something other than legitimate wilderness somehow, maybe by dint of the fact that they are fundamentally man-made constructs, rather than natural in origin.

Don’t get me wrong… it is a beautiful place. I enjoyed my time on the water there and I expect I’ll even go back someday. (There is a canoeing/climbing trip I have always wanted to do from Ross Lake to Mount Challenger. It is on my list and I swear, I mean to get there at some point. To get to the south end of Ross Lake requires getting back onto Diablo again, so I will return. And that, when it happens, will be a whole new story.)

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