Leavenworth is an old pioneer town with roots in timber, railroads, and agriculture. The region was heavily logged up until the first part of the 20th century, floating massive log rafts down the Wenatchee River to long since abandoned mills. Railroads came in and Leavenworth was the site of a huge switching yard. Trains laden with cargo for the West Coast pulled in here and were transferred to smaller, electric engines for the treacherous journey up the Tumwater Canyon and over Stevens Pass. The line has long since changed, avoiding the pass by going through one of the longest train tunnels in North America, (over 6 miles!) and bypassing the Tumwater Canyon by following a new, mellower gradient to the town of Plain. These railroad changes had a devastating effect on Leavenworth. The switching yard was no longer needed, trains were bypassing Leavenworth and heading straight into nearby Wenatchee instead. The local farmers and orchards were producing their goods, but the big market for their products was Wenatchee or Seattle, and Leavenworth's economic situation soon took a turn for the worst. Businesses began to close, streets became deserted. Where once a thriving pioneer town existed, there remained what seemed to be a ghost town.
A few residents wouldn't accept it, and began to make changes to their businesses. Realizing the beauty of the area and the potential for travelers to visit and enjoy the area, they began to plan a tourist theme for the town. With help from researchers from the University of Washington, a group of business owners and concerned citizens adopted the Bavarian theme to the town. Beautifully framed by the Cascade Mountains, located on the confluence of the Wenatchee and Icicle Rivers, the town lent itself perfectly to the mountain village theme. The town created building codes and sponsored festivals. Locals did their homework, donned costumes and played their parts in their businesses and the festivals.
Word got out. Travelers came to town. Tourism dollars began to revitalize the economy. Then more businesses came in, more recreation opportunities were opened, more festivals were put on the calendar, and Wham! Leavenworth became a destination! Leavenworth has continued to grow at a moderate pace, now home to modern businesses and luxury accommodations. It still has the small Bavarian Village atmosphere, with parks, music, festivals, architecture, and shop keepers in traditional high country Bavarian garb. There are many quiet places to be found, many friendly faces to see. And if you like strenuous activities, the trails around Leavenworth have been explored and there is something for every ability level