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Granite Falls, Washington

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Granite Falls, Washington
Stanley Street (SR 92) in downtown Granite Falls
Stanley Street (SR 92) in downtown Granite Falls
Flag of Granite Falls, Washington
Location of Granite Falls, Washington
Location of Granite Falls, Washington
Coordinates: 48°4′58″N 121°58′11″W / 48.08278°N 121.96972°W / 48.08278; -121.96972
CountryUnited States
 • TypeCouncil–manager
 • ManagerBrent Kirk
 • City2.21 sq mi (5.72 km2)
 • Land2.19 sq mi (5.68 km2)
 • Water0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)
407 ft (124 m)
 • City3,364
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,931.57/sq mi (745.77/km2)
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific (PST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code360
FIPS code53-27995
GNIS feature ID1520218[5]

Granite Falls is a city in Snohomish County, Washington, United States. It is located between the Pilchuck and Stillaguamish rivers in the western foothills of the Cascade Range, northeast of Lake Stevens and Marysville. The city is named for a waterfall north of downtown on the Stillagumish River, also accessible via the Mountain Loop Highway. It had a population of 3,364 at the 2010 census.

The site of Granite Falls was originally a portage for local Coast Salish tribes prior to the arrival of American settlers. The settlement was founded in 1883 and prospered after the discovery of gold and silver in the Monte Cristo mines located east of Granite Falls on the Everett and Monte Cristo Railway. Granite Falls was platted in 1891 and incorporated as a fourth-class town on November 8, 1903.


The Pilchuck River and Upper Stillaguamish basin was historically inhabited by the Skykomish people, who used the modern-day site of Granite Falls as a portage along with other Coast Salish tribes.[6][7] Several Skykomish archaeological sites were discovered in the 1970s between modern-day Granite Falls and Lochsloy, with over 700 artifacts recovered from later excavation.[8]

The first permanent European settler was Joseph Sous Enas, who staked a homestead claim in 1883 on land south of the present city.[9] The townsite was platted in 1891, following the construction of a post office and general store. The Everett and Monte Cristo Railway reached Granite Falls on October 16, 1892, building a station for the town on the route between the mining area of Monte Cristo (now a ghost town) and the county seat of Everett.[10] The city was officially incorporated on December 21, 1903.[9] He was quickly followed by other homesteaders, benefiting from "the Big Burn", a forest fire that cleared the heavily forested land and made it easier for settlers to stake claims.

By 1896, there were enough residents to petition the state of a school district (Granite Falls District #1)[11]

The discovery of gold and other minerals in 1889 in the Cascade Mountains East of Granite Falls was a boon to Granite Falls. Mines needed a railroad and the settlers of Granite Falls stepped up to provide railroad ties cut from the nearby forests, supplies for fortune seeking miners, a doctor, and other necessities. In 1890, a post office was opened and the first commercial establishments opened on what is now South Granite Ave and Pioneer.[9]

The Everett and Monte Cristo Railway came to town in 1892 from its start in Hartford, Washington (near today's Lake Stevens) and through to its terminus at Monte Cristo. Partially funded by John D. Rockefeller and others, the train carried supplies, passengers, and ore up and down the Stilly Valley.[12]

The Granite Falls townsite was platted in 1891 from portions of the Wright and Anderson homesteads and on November 8, 1903, Granite Falls was incorporated as a fourth-class city.[13] Electricity, sewers, sidewalks, telephones, cars, and all the amenities of modern life soon followed.

By World War I, the once bustling mining towns of Monte Cristo and Silverton were no longer shipping out ore. The railroad, now owned by Northern Pacific, stopped running and the tracks were torn out in the early 1930s to make way for the Mountain Loop Highway.

Granite Falls between the world wars was a lumber town; logging companies felled trees, sawmills created lumber and shingle mills created shingles. The Great Depression, however, took its toll. By 1935, the population of Granite Falls was half what it was in 1925. Mills closed and people left to find work elsewhere. On April 26, 1933, a fire destroyed the Cascade Hotel in downtown Granite Falls and threatened other buildings. The historic hotel was rebuilt at the same site.[14]

At the end of World War II, things looked bleak. The opening of Miller Shingle in 1946 (now the country's largest specialty lumber mill) meant jobs both in the woods and at the mill. Construction booms through Snohomish and King counties also meant jobs at the gravel pits dotted around Granite Falls. The city later became a bedroom community for commuters working in Everett and Lake Stevens for large companies.[15]

Hard times would come again. In 1986, the United States Forest Service severely limited logging in old-growth forests under its protection in an effort to save the Northern Spotted Owl from extinction.[16] In June, 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department declared the spotted owl an endangered species, and in 1991, a federal court judge ruled the Forest Service's logging plan to save the owl was inadequate. Over one-fourth of old-growth forest on both public and private land were put off-limits to logging.[17]

In the 21st century, Granite Falls has focused on attracting visitors to the natural environment and recreational opportunities along the Mt. Loop Highway.[citation needed] Expanded housing development has brought an increased population of families who commute to Everett, Seattle, and the Eastside to work. In 2001, the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America was given a 17-acre (7 ha) plot of land next to Kannagara Jinja (built by the Reverend of the shrine) in Granite Falls, which was built upon, combining the two places.[18]

A truck bypass around the north side of downtown Granite Falls opened in 2010 to serve several quarries to the northeast. A new high school campus was built near the bypass, along with a housing development with 327 homes in the late 2010s.[19]

A downtown revitalization project began in the 2000s with renovations to buildings and a small city park. A new civic center is planned along South Granite Avenue, including a city hall that opened in 2019, a public plaza, a community center, and a gymnasium for the Boys & Girls Club that will also serve as an emergency shelter.[20] The city government has also proposed promoting Granite Falls as a location for outdoor recreation retailers and businesses.[21]


The eponymous waterfall on the South Fork Stillaguamish River
The eponymous waterfall on the South Fork Stillaguamish River

Granite Falls is located in Snohomish County, approximately 17 miles (27 km) east of Everett, the county seat, and 45 miles (72 km) northeast of Seattle.[15] It lies in the western foothills of the Cascade Range between the South Fork Stillaguamish River to the north and the Pilchuck River to the south.[9] Granite Falls is also the southern entrance to the Mountain Loop Highway, a scenic highway that continues into the Cascades to Darrington.[22]

The city limits are defined to the north by the Stillaguamish River, to the east by Iron Mountain, to the south by the Pilchuck River, and to the west by 174th Avenue Northeast.[23] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.20 square miles (5.70 km2), of which, 2.18 square miles (5.65 km2) is land and 0.02 square miles (0.05 km2) is water.[24]

It is situated where the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River leaves its narrow mountain valley, which includes the namesake Granite Falls. The falls has a 540-foot (160 m) fishway and a 280-foot (85 m) tunnel that were built in 1954, at the time the longest fish tunnel in the world.[25] The area where the city was founded was called the "portage" by native tribes in the area, who used the flat area between the two rivers to portage their canoes when traveling.[26] Iron Mountain, which sits at 1,240 feet (380 m) above sea level, lies east of downtown.[citation needed] The Rogers Belt, a series of local faults, runs northwest from Granite Falls towards Mount Vernon.[27]


The climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and most of the rainfall occurs between October and May. Temperatures in the summer can be up to 10 degrees warmer than nearby Everett, due to its slightly inland location. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Granite Falls has a marine west coast climate, abbreviated "Cfb" on climate maps.[28]


As of 2018, Granite Falls has an estimated workforce population of 1,816 people, of which 1,746 are employed. The largest sectors of employment are educational and health services (21.6 percent), followed by construction (17.0%), manufacturing (16.6%), and retail (10.7%).[29] The majority of workers in the city commute to other areas for employment, including 19 percent to Everett, 11 percent to Seattle, and 5 percent to Marysville. Approximately 5.2 percent of Granite Falls residents work within the city limits.[30] Over 80 percent of workers commute in single-occupant vehicles, while 4 percent take public transportation or carpools.[29]

The city had 202 registered businesses with 849 total jobs, according to 2012 estimates by the U.S. Census and Puget Sound Regional Council.[31][32] The largest providers of jobs in Granite Falls came from businesses in the education and services sectors.[32] Several of the largest employers are located in an industrial park in the northeast corner of the city near the Mountain Loop Highway. They include electrical manufacturer B.I.C.[33] and aerospace manufacturer Cobalt Industries.[34] Granite Falls is located near several rock and gravel quarries, which created traffic congestion in downtown that was later mitigated through the opening of a truck bypass in 2010.[35][36]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)4,234[4]25.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[37]
U.S. Census Estimate (2019)[38]

The population was 3,364 at the 2010 census. The current population as of 2017 population counts through the Office of Financial Management is 3,485.[citation needed] The city's population grew rapidly in the 1990s and 2000s due to new development and annexations.[34]:4

The town has had an ongoing drug crisis due to the presence of meth and opioids, which earned national coverage in the early 2000s.[39][40][41]

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 3,364 people, 1,222 households, and 831 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,543.1 inhabitants per square mile (595.8/km2). There were 1,344 housing units at an average density of 616.5 per square mile (238.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.6% White, 0.7% African American, 1.2% Native American, 1.5% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 3.2% from other races, and 5.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.5% of the population.[3]

There were 1,222 households, of which 42.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.5% were married couples living together, 12.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 32.0% were non-families. 25.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.33.[3]

The median age in the city was 34.4 years. 29.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 30.9% were from 25 to 44; 23.1% were from 45 to 64; and 8.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.2% male and 49.8% female.[3]

2000 census

As of the 2000 census, there were 2,347 people, 846 households, and 594 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,372.9 people per square mile (529.9/km2). There were 873 housing units at an average density of 510.7 per square mile (197.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.84% White, 0.68% African American, 2.09% Native American, 1.53% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 1.28% from other races, and 3.49% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.56% of the population.[42]

There were 846 households, out of which 45.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.7% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.7% were non-families. 23.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.31.[42]

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 33.2% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 36.8% from 25 to 44, 15.6% from 45 to 64, and 6.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.1 males.[42]

The median income for a household in the city was $47,643, and the median income for a family was $52,150. Males had a median income of $40,469 versus $26,809 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,425. About 5.1% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.7% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those age 65 or over.[42]

Government and politics

The city hall of Granite Falls, opened in 2019
The city hall of Granite Falls, opened in 2019

Granite Falls is a non-charter code city with a council–manager system of government.[43] The five members of the city council are elected at-large to four-year terms in staggered odd years. The city council serves as the city's legislative body and selects a ceremonial mayor from its members to manage meetings.[44] The daily operations of the city government are overseen by the city manager, who is appointed by the city council.[45] Granite Falls switched from a "strong" mayor–council government in 2015 and hired former city administrator and public works director Brent Kirk as its first city manager.[46]

The city government had nine full-time employees and an annual budget of $5.2 million in 2017.[45] Municipal services include public safety, utilities, street maintenance, and managing parks and recreational activities.[45] Granite Falls has contracted with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office to provide policing services for the area since 2014, when the city's police department was disbanded.[47] Fire protection is provided by Snohomish County Fire District 17, which covers 38 square miles (98 km2) of Granite Falls and surrounding unincorporated areas.[48] The Granite Falls city hall is located on South Granite Avenue in downtown at a 7,600-square-foot (710 m2) building that opened in August 2019. It cost $3.9 million to construct, using loans and reserve funds, and replaced a smaller building across the street that had accessibility issues.[49]

At the federal level, Granite Falls is part of the 1st congressional district, which includes the northeastern areas of the Puget Sound region and is represented by Democrat Suzan DelBene.[50] At the state level, Granite Falls shares the 39th legislative district with Arlington, the Skykomish Valley, and eastern Skagit County.[50] The city lies in the Snohomish County Council's 1st district, which includes most of the county north of Everett and Lake Stevens.[51][52]


Granite Falls has several annual community events, the largest of which is Railroad Days in early October. The Railroad Days festival was established in 1965 by a schoolteacher and celebrates the city's local history. It attracts about 5,000 visitors and includes a parade, a street fair, carnival rides, and tours.[53][54]

The city's historical society opened its museum in October 2007 at a two-story building with 30,000 square feet (2,800 m2) of space.[55][56] The museum launched a digitization project in 2016, using volunteer labor to preserve photographs and newspaper records.[57]


The Granite Falls area has been home to several renowned artists, including Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson in the 1940s and 1950s.[58] The city has several works of public art, including downtown murals and sculptures at local schools.[59] Among them is a 12-foot (3.7 m) wood carving of Bigfoot created by a local cryptozoologist.[60] In 2000, Granite Falls erected several sculptures depicting toilets to raise funds for a public restroom as part of the annual Art in the Parks festival.[61]

The 1977 movie Joyride, set in Alaska, and the 2018 movie Outside In were partially filmed in Granite Falls.[62][63] A local music venue at the Scherrer Ranch was closed in 1995 by the county government after it constructed a stage without permits.[64]

Parks and recreation

Granite Falls is located near recreational areas along the Mountain Loop Highway in the Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest, including sites for hiking, camping, and fishing.[65] Among the major attractions on the Mountain Loop Highway are the ghost town of Monte Cristo and the Big Four Ice Caves.[66] Other major recreational areas near Granite Falls include Lake Bosworth and Lake Roesiger to the south, which are both stocked by the county government.[65][67]

The city government owns eight parks and nature preserves, ranging from small neighborhood parks to city recreational areas. The largest is Frank Mason Park, which encompasses the 10-acre (4.0 ha) Lake Gardner and 32.4 acres (13.1 ha) of surrounding land that has been partially developed. The park has a fishing pier, restrooms, picnic tables, and walking paths.[68][69] The city and local school district maintain several athletic facilities for residents, as well as a skate park and dog park.[65][68]


The first newspaper in Granite Falls, the Post, began publishing on July 23, 1903. It was later replaced by the Record in 1922 and the Press, which later merged with a newspaper in Lake Stevens.[70][71] Granite Falls is also served by two regional daily newspapers: The Everett Herald and The Seattle Times.[72]

Granite Falls has a public library that is operated by the regional Sno-Isle Libraries system, which annexed the city in 1995.[73] The 6,500-square-foot (600 m2) library building is located east of downtown Granite Falls and was initially owned by the city government until it was transferred to Sno-Isle in 2012.[74][75]


The Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America is located west of Granite Falls on 25 acres (10 ha) overlooking the Pilchuck River. The Shinto shrine is one of a few in the United States and was dedicated in 2001 after moving from Stockton, California.[76] The Tsubaki Grand Shrine is open to the public and hosts several annual festivals and religious ceremonies.[77]

The Holy Cross Catholic Church in downtown Granite Falls was built in 1903 and served as a satellite parish of St. Michael's Catholic Church until 2004. The church's congregation was split between Granite Falls and Lake Stevens until a new church was constructed in 2008.[78] The old building was renovated for a bilingual Christian church that opened in 2015.[79][80] The LDS Church established a local ward in the 1990s and opened a dedicated chapel adjacent to Granite Falls High School in 2009.[81]

Notable residents


The city has four public schools that are operated by the Granite Falls School District, which also serves unincorporated communities to the northwest and near the Mountain Loop Highway.[85][86] The school district had an enrollment of over 2,100 students in 2018 and employed 107 teachers and 80 other staff members.[87] Granite Falls has two elementary schools (Mountain Way and Monte Cristo), Granite Falls Middle School, Granite Falls High School, and Crossroads High School, an alternative school program.[86] Andrea Peterson of Monte Cristo Elementary School was named the 2007 National Teacher of the Year.[88]

The first schoolhouse in Granite Falls opened in 1893 and was replaced by a new building at the site in 1910. A larger building opened in 1938 for Granite Falls High School, which later moved to a nearby building in 1964 and opened at its new campus in January 2008.[89] The high school's athletic teams, nicknamed the Tigers, compete in the North Sound Conference; a 1,700-seat football stadium opened at the new high school campus in 2018, replacing the Hi-Jewel Stadium at the former high school, which had been converted into a middle school.[90][91]



Granite Falls is the terminus of State Route 92, which connects the area to State Route 9 in Lake Stevens.[92] A 1.9-mile (3.1 km) bypass for freight traffic was completed around the north side of the city in 2010 at a cost of $28.8 million.[36] The scenic Mountain Loop Highway begins in Granite Falls and travels east into the Cascade Mountains before turning north to reach Darrington. It is used by an estimated 55,000 tourists annually and provides access to recreational areas in the Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest.[93]

Community Transit, the countywide public transportation agency, has one bus route serving Granite Falls. It connects the city to Lake Stevens and Everett Station, with extended service to the Boeing Everett Factory during peak hours.[94] The nearest airport to Granite Falls is Paine Field in Everett.[65]


Electric power in Granite Falls is supplied by the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD), a consumer-owned public utility that serves all of Snohomish County.[95] The city government purchases its tap water from the PUD, which is sourced from the City of Everett system at Spada Lake and Lake Chaplain.[96] Since 2012, the PUD has also supplied water to Granite Falls that is sourced from groundwater wells near Lake Stevens and treated to be similar to the water from the City of Everett system.[97] The city government also manages a sanitary sewage system that terminates at a treatment plant that discharges water into the Pilchuck River.[72][98]

Natural gas service for the city is provided by Puget Sound Energy, a regional gas utility company.[99] The city government contracts with Waste Management to provide curbside collection and disposal of garbage, recycling, and yard waste. The Granite Falls area also has two recycling and disposal centers operated by Snohomish County.[100] Telecommunications services are provided by Verizon and Comcast.[72]


The nearest general hospitals to Granite Falls are Providence Medical Center in Everett and Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington.[65] The city's medical clinic was part of the Cascade Valley system, which was absorbed into Skagit Regional Health in 2016.[101][102]


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