Nachess Pass
Nachess Pass, also spelled Naches, is located in the Cascade Range in Washington State at an elevation of 4.988 feet. The pass, which has also been referred to as the “Walla Walla to Steilacoom Citizens Trail” and the “Cascade Emigrant Road,” extends into the Yakima Valley.1
When explorers first entered the north end of the Columbia River, they found a network of Indigenous trails which were connected through the mountains. Nachess Pass was one of these trails which explorers/settlers developed in order to do trade with various Indigenous groups.2 In 1841, an expedition group led by Charles Wilkes entered Puget Sound, except for Lieutenant Johnson and his party who continued his journey over Nachess Pass towards the Columbia Basin.3
Although Nachess Pass had been mentioned by the Hudson's Bay Company, Johnson's party was the first to officially document the route. In July 1853, the territorial citizens committee, led by Edward Allen, were beginning to convert Nachess Pass into a rough road. However, due to the pass's heightened cliffs and scant forage on the upper segments, it was not a popular choice for crossing.4
In 1854, Richard Arnold re-surveyed the pass and found it could function as a wagon road. And, during the “Indian War” of 1855-57, Nachess Pass received much use by Indigenous Peoples and the military. By the early 1860s, cattle drives were going from Yakima through the Nachess Pass to Puget Sound, this continued until 1880. The pass lost its appeal from 1890-1920 when it was nearly forgotten and used primarily for sheep grazing.5
  • 1. Mike Hiler, A history of Naches Pass, Signpost for Northwest Trails, (July 1989), 1 ; Elva Cooper Magnusson, Naches Pass, Washington Journals, (1934), 171.
  • 2. Hiler, A history of Naches Pass, 1.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid., 1-2.
  • 5. Ibid., 2-4.
Mentions of this place in the documents
People in this document

Wilkes, Charles

Organizations in this document

Hudson's Bay Company

Places in this document

Cascade Mountains

Columbia River

Puget Sound

Yakima Valley