Downtown Leavenworth's Front Street. AJM STUDIOS Northwest Photo Journey photo.

Leavenworth is a city in Chelan County, Washington. It is part of the WenatcheeEast Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,074 at the 2000 census. 2,324 people lived in Leavenworth as of 2008%. It is well known for it's Bavarian themed downtown.


Long before white settlers ventured into the American West, the Wenatchi Indians inhabited the Wenatchee Valley from Steven's Pass to the Columbia River and present-day Wenatchee. But the great Pacific Northwest beckoned explorers, trappers and a few settlers who entered the area in the early 1800's. By the mid-1800's settlers were flooding into the area, and by the end of the century the Wenatchi Indians were all but gone. In the early 1880's homesteaders staked claims about 10 miles east of Leavenworth near present-day Cashmere, then known as Mission. Leavenworth, originally known as Icicle, started out in 1885 when a small group of homesteaders settled where the Wenatchee and Icicle Rivers meet in the Leavenworth Valley. Known as Icicle Flats, it was the site of a Wenatchi Indian salmon fishery. By the 1890's settlers were also moving up the Chumstick Valley and around Lake Wenatchee and Plain, then called Beaver Valley.


Early Leavenworth, unknown date.

As in all parts of this fledgling country, the railroads brought great change and growth. The Great Northern Railroad began laying track up the Wenatchee Valley in 1892 along what is now Highway 2, and over Steven's Pass in 1893, transiting the Cascade Mountains. They constructed a roundhouse, switchyard and division headquarters in Leavenworth, making it an important rail head. But railroad history shows this was a tough and dangerous endeavor, and the Pacific Northwest would not be tamed easily. About 30 miles west of Leavenworth is Stevens Pass and the 8-mile Cascade Train Tunnel, and nearby the site of the original tunnel and the March 1, 1910 Wellington Train Disaster, one of the nation's worst train disasters

The town was platted in 1893 by the Okanogan Investment Company, and named for its president Captain Charles Leavenworth. The population at this time was around 700. A dam was constructed in 1904 at the south edge of town on the Wenatchee River to form a mill pond, and the Lamb-Davis Lumber Company built a large sawmill. The town was incorporated in April 1906. In the early 1900's the first fruit trees were planted, and miles of irrigation canals were constructed developing Leavenworth's agricultural base. Logging and fruit agriculture are still important industries today.


Leavenworth, Unknown date.

The triple-industry economy was very prosperous, and Leavenworth became a boom town with a questionable reputation. Its population rose to around 5,500 and it boasted numerous brothels, and even more saloons. However, the good fortune crashed as fast as the stock market. In the 1920s the two biggest sources of revenue disappeared almost overnight. In 1922 the Great Northern Railroad moved its roundhouse and headquarters to Wenatchee, and rerouted the rail line from the steep and dangerous Tumwater Canyon to the Chumstick Valley, by-passing Leavenworth. With no easy access to the railroad, the sawmill closed in 1926 and the lumber company headed for more profitable areas. With the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930's, followed by the war years, Leavenworth's economy spiraled downward.


Downtown Leavenworth, 1953.

These hard times plagued Leavenworth through the 1940s and 1950s. With little hope of an economic rebound, stores were closing and people were leaving as there were few job opportunities. However, in 1962 community leaders approached the University of Washington Bureau of Community Development looking for ways to save the town. Out of this work came the idea to use the towns' beautiful natural surroundings and a Bavarian theme to attract visitors to the area. Two of the leaders instrumental in this effort were Pauline and Owen Watson, longtime residents of Leavenworth who owned and operated Alpine Electric out of one of the buildings on Front Street.

In 1965 the decision was made by key business owners to adopt the Bavarian theme and remodel their buildings. Pauline created sketches of some of the storefronts and presented these ideas to other business owners. An agreement was reached and Project Alpine was formed to guide the Bavarianization of Leavenworth, with Pauline serving as chairperson for over ten years. In the summer of 1965, Alpine Electric was the first building to be remodeled into Alpine Electric and the Alpen Haus Gift Shoppe, shown below.

One of the most impressive facts about this entire project is that it was financed with private money - no federal assistance at all. Simply dedicated people mortgaging everything they had! The town underwent an amazing transformation. The first six buildings were remodeled in 1965 and 1966, and the others soon followed. Autumn Leaf Festival and the Christmas Lighting were introduced in the mid 1960's, and the Maifest in 1971. Art in the Park and Amberleaf Theater began soon after, and Leavenworth was on its way to what you see today - a premier destination for family vacations, holidays, recreation and getaways.

In 1994 all of Chelan County was plagued with wild fires. In total, about 180,000 acres of forested land burned. In Leavenworth two fires - "The Hatchery Complex" and "Rat Creek" - burned out of control and people were forced to evacuate.


LeavenworthwashingtonGregg M. Erickson

Overview of downtown Leavenworth, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains.

The city is located at an elevation of 1180.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.2 square miles (3.2 km²), of which, 1.2 square miles (3.2 km²) of it is land and 0.80% is water.


Leavenworth, WA climate is mild during summer when temperatures tend to be in the 60's and very cold during winter when temperatures tend to be in the 20's.


Downtown Leavenworth. AJM STUDIOS Northwest Photo Journey photo.

The warmest month of the year is August with an average maximum temperature of 87.60 degrees Fahrenheit, while the coldest month of the year is January with an average minimum temperature of 17.20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperature variations between night and day tend to be relatively big during summer with a difference that can reach 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and fairly limited during winter with an average difference of 19 degrees Fahrenheit.

The annual average precipitation at Leavenworth is 25.07 Inches. Winter months tend to be wetter than summer months. The wettest month of the year is December with an average rainfall of 4.83 Inches.


Leavenworth is well known for it's Bavarian culture. Throughout the year, many festivals are held, including the Christmas Lighting Festival. In 1969 on December 6 Leavenworth first celebrated the renowned Christmas Lighting Festival. That first year celebrated the arrival of the first Christmas train from Seattle and busses from Spokane - all greeted by the locals and bands. This is a major traditions of many families, that now visit Leavenworth at Christmas time.


Newspapers Leavenworth Echo




Cascade Medical Center in Leavenworth. AJM STUDIOS Northwest Photo Journey photo.

The Cascade Medical Center is located in Leavenworth and serves the Cascades.


The Chelan County Sheriff's Department is contracted to the city.


  • Leavenworth has Amtrak rail service at Leavenworth "Icicle" Station which recently re-opened with a new station in September 2009.
  • Leavenworth also has a stop for Northwestern Trailways bus at SR2 & Icicle Road. This bus can be cross-ticketed with Amtrak Thruway. This Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach service operates as redundant service along the Empire Builder route between Seattle and Spokane to add extra capacity and provide service during other times of the day. The route also serves Stevens Pass, Skykomish, and Monroe. The thruway motorcoach service is used when normal rail service encounters disruptions. E.g. a closure of Cascade Tunnel.
  • The Leavenworth Free Trolley that circulates between SR2 & Icicle Road and the Safeway.
  • Link Transit has a Dial-a-Ride service. The service requires at least a one day advance notice.
  • Leavenworth Taxi also has a shuttle that operates within the greater Leavenworth area. It stops at both the Northwestern Trailways/Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach bus stop and the Amtrak rail station.