The area that is now the Town of Concrete was originally two settlements located at the convergence of the Baker and Skagit Rivers in the northern Cascade Mountains. The settlement on the west side of the Baker River was originally known as Minnehaha. The east side of the river was known as Baker. The initial settlers to the area relied upon the timber from the mountains to build their homes and run their mills. The settlers soon discovered that the mountains yielded more important products, limestone and clay. The settlers of Minnehaha changed the name of the town to Cement City when the Washington Portland Cement Plant began construction in 1905. The production of cement was so profitable that a second company, the Superior Portland Cement Company opened for business in 1908. The influence of these companies was so great that when the two towns were incorporated into a single town in 1909, they named the town after their most important business, Concrete.
Our neighboring upriver communities include Lyman, Hamilton, Birdsview, Rockport, Marblemount, and Newhalem. Many people also make their homes in rural areas along both sides of the Skagit and Sauk Rivers. Highway 20, our main arterial, goes over the North Cascades passes (yep, there are two: Rainy Pass and Washington Pass). The spectacular scenery of these high passes brings many tourists in the summer. In the winter, the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival brings people out to enjoy the hundreds of eagles that compete with our fishers for spawning salmon.
The Skagit River hosts all five species of Pacific salmon plus steelhead. It’s the largest river feeding Puget Sound and the third largest river emptying into the Pacific from the continental US. (Some) Skagitonians are working hard to preserve this fabulous resource. Agriculture, which dominates the vistas of the lower valley, also plays a role along the upper Skagit. Here we have smaller farms and ranches producing pastured beef and some organic produce.
The upriver community includes aging hippies, some recent retirees, a few online college students, people getting by on disability, and working age people who eke out a living independently or work for the power companies, the national park, the forest service, the school district, other government agencies, and a few local businesses. Broadband access has improved in recent years, but there are still gaps in service, so if Internet access is important to you, check it out before moving.
Politically, there are some Democrats, some Libertarians, and some serious gun-rights, property-rights, Agenda 21 conspiracy theory types. Some people live here because they love to fish or hike. Others live here because they can grow pot or ignore environmental laws or build things without permits without being noticed. Although there are people living here who have no religious beliefs and people who adhere to non-Christian faiths, they keep their heads down. A ruckus in the spring of 2013 brought anti-Muslim speakers to town to pump up local residents about the dangers of Sharia Law being imposed on everyone. It was a very ugly chapter in our history, and it’s not over yet.
There are some tolerant people who live here, but there are also people who resent outsiders, city people especially. If you’re thinking of moving here, you’ll find people to engage with, and you’ll find others who will be suspicious of you until they die or you move away.