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Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a US National Recreation Area located in north central Washingtonmarker just south of the Canadian border. It is the most accessible part of the North Cascades National Park Service Complexmarker which also includes North Cascades National Parkmarker and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areamarker. Ross Lake NRA follows the Skagit Rivermarker corridor from the Canadian border to the western foothills of the Cascades. The NRA contains a portion of scenic Washington State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, and includes three reservoirs: 12,000 acre (49 km²) Ross Lakemarker, 910 acre (3.7 km²) Diablo Lakemarker, and 210 acre (0.8 km²) Gorge Lake. These reservoirs make up the Skagit Hydroelectic Project operated by Seattle City Light. Nestled in the "American Alps" the Ross Lake NRA bisects the north and south units of North Cascades National Parkmarker.


Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a major recreation destination in the Northern Cascades, attracting visitors from across the US and Canada with fishing, hunting, canoeing, kayaking, climbing and hiking opportunities. The NRA contains trailheads that connect to hundreds of miles of hiking trails in adjoining North Cascades National Park, Pasayten Wildernessmarker, and Skagit Valley Provincial Parkmarker. National Park Service campgrounds along the North Cascades Highway including Newhalem Creek, Colonial Creek and Goodall Creek feature tent and RV camping. Newhalem, Washingtonmarker is home to both the North Cascades Visitor Center and the Skagit Information Center. Along Ross Lake and Diablo reservoirs boat-in camping is allowed, permits are required from the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount, Washingtonmarker.

Desolation Peak Lookout remains an operational fire lookout staffed each summer by fire personnel. The lookout features sweeping vistas of North Cascade peaks including Hozomeen Mountainmarker. The lookout is best known as the setting for Jack Kerouac's novel Desolation Angels. Kerouac spent the summer of 1956 manning the 14' by 14' structure for the U.S. Forest Service. The lookout can be accessed via a six mile (10 km) trail from the shore of Ross Lakemarker.


Ross Lake NRA provides the primary access points for motorists and backpackers entering the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. Public automobile access is allowed via two roads. Most travelers in the region use the North Cascades Highway, which bisects the National Recreation Area east to west. The second vehicle access point is the southern terminus of the 43-mile gravel Silver Skagit Road just south of the Canadian border at the Hozomeen campground. The nearest large town on the west side of the park is Sedro-Woolley, Washingtonmarker, while Winthropmarker lies to the east and Hope, British Columbiamarker to the north. The entrance to the complex lies east of Interstate 5. No entrance fee is charged for North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, or Lake Chelan National Recreation Areamarker.

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