Running for 30 miles from Cady Park in downtown Snohomish to the Nakashima Heritage Barn near Arlington, Snohomish County’s Centennial Trail boasts many historical stops to enjoy as cyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians. Those interested in learning about the Centennial Trail and its place in Snohomish County history can take advantage of a free history walk event on July 20 hosted by the Snohomish County Historic Preservation Commission and local tribal and historical groups.
The first section of the Centennial Trail opened to the public in 1989, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Washington’s statehood. In 2013, the final section of the trail was completed near the Skagit County line, making the Centennial Trail the largest park in Snohomish County. Following along a prior railroad grade, this paved and easily accessible trail with minimal elevation gain runs parallel to the Highway 9 corridor. The former railway was constructed along routes that the Indigenous people of the area had historically used.
More than half a million walkers, hikers, bikers, and horseback riders access the trail every year. Snohomish County Parks and Recreation maintain ten trailheads and the trail itself. Find educational signs about local history and wildlife posted at various picnic and seating areas dispersed along the route. The trail also functions as a conservation area, providing essential protection for wildlife and plants.
The Centennial Trail was constructed on top of a former railroad used by the Burlington-Northern, Seattle, Eastern, and Lakeshore rail lines. Four tribal groups of Snohomish County (Snohomish, Sauk and Suiattle River, Snoqualmie, and Stillaguamish peoples) had long-established trails overtaken by the rail lines.
In 1888, the first depot on the Centennial Trail section of the railroad was built in the area that would become the town Machias in 1890. The Northern Pacific Railroad Depot was the only building to survive a catastrophic fire in the business district of Machias in 1919. Today, a replica of the Machias Depot stands at the Machias Trailhead of the Centennial Trail and can be rented as an event space.
In 1889, shortly after constructing the original Machias Depot, the railroad reached the area now known as Nakashima Farm. Initially, a lumber mill was built at this site, and the timber industry primarily used the railway to transport logs and milled lumber. Eventually, this lush area became dairy farmland, and the Nakashima family bought the property in 1937. Kamezo and Miye Nakashima and their 11 children were some of the first Japanese farmers in Snohomish County. At one point, the farm encompassed 1,200 acres of land and contained 70 dairy cows.
In 1942, the Nakashimas were ordered into internment camps along with nearly 120,000 other American citizens of Japanese descent. The family was split up amongst different internment camps. A park now occupies some of the former Nakashima farmland, and the large red barn is all that remains of the farm’s buildings.
In 2012, Snohomish County opened the northernmost trailhead on the Centennial Trail and dedicated it to the memory of the Nakashima family. As part of the trailhead dedication, the barn was adorned permanently with historical photographs provided by the Densho Japanese American Legacy Project, Everett Public Library, and Edmonds-South Snohomish Historical Society. The Snohomish County Arts Commission authorized the Nakashima Heritage Barn “history quilt” photographic project.
Members of the public interested in delving into the history of the Centennial Trail and Snohomish County in more depth will enjoy the Centennial Trail History Walk. On July 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., local tribes and historical organizations, in conjunction with the Snohomish County Historic Preservation Commission, offer a free and family-friendly event at the Machias Trailhead. Attendees can view the historical replica of the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot and handle artifacts while experiencing exhibits and activities curated by local archaeologists and historians.
The Centennial Trail spans 30 miles and hundreds of years of Snohomish County history. Whether you’re hoping to simply enjoy the outdoors, learn about local wildlife or attend an organized event about local history, the Centennial Trail is one of Snohomish County’s most loved and frequented destinations.