Growing Up On The Wild Skykomish River

Today, Andrea Matzke, a local resident, tells us about growing up on the South Fork Skykomish River.  This guest blog is part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series:

Take Action to Protect the
SF Skykomish River

Please take a minute to email SnoPUD and urge them to abandon the Sunset Falls project!

The more I travel and with each new city I live in, nothing becomes more apparent to me than how blessed I was to have grown up on the Skykomish River. With its stunning clear green-blue water running beneath the cliffs of Mount Index, it’s a paradise that even to this day doesn’t exist anywhere else.

As a kid, I had no idea that the Sky was a Washington State Scenic Waterway, I just knew it was where my parents would bring the out-of-town visitors or clients they wanted to impress. Our guests would look up at Mt. Index towering over the bend in the river gasp, “This is more beautiful than the Alps.” And then the cameras would come out. A few forced smiles and I could go back to skipping rocks in the river.

I think my family was oblivious to the fact that the Skykomish River is so unique in its scenic beauty and natural state that it was placed on the National Rivers Inventory, which is a really big deal if you’re a river. All we knew was the Sky was the best place for inner tubing and rafting. My siblings, cousins, friends, and I would make a chain of inner tubes and float down the river, with majestic scenery all around us. The trick to tubing was to get caught in the eddy at the bend in the river, where you could go around in circles for hours. 

The Sky taught me to fish. The water runs so crystal clear in the summer you can actually see the fish ignoring your line. My pole was a broken tree branch with fishing line tied on with a hook I tried to squish cheddar cheese onto (my grandfather’s trick). I didn’t catch a lot of fish, but I’d spend hours trying.

My mom, being an artist, would take my sisters and me walking along the Sky’s shore to collect rocks we could paint on. It was my favorite part of the summer. I still have a pink hippo I painted on a rock 35 years ago – it’s a paperweight (of course).

While we gathered rocks my grandmother, an old Polish immigrant, would sift through the sand at the shoreline for little flakes of gold. She’d pick them up with her perfectly manicured nails and place them in her empty cigarette pack. I remember hearing something about the area once having gold mines, and my grandmother was going to find the last of the loot, even if it was one fleck at a time.

As an adult, all of our family reunions are still held along the Skykomish. Four generations have grown up fortunate enough to experience the magic of the Sky.

Until recently, I don’t think any of us knew that the South Fork of the Skykomish was so special, so unique, so pristine that it has been nominated to Congress for federal protection as a Wild and Scenic River. What we have always known is that the Skykomish River is the most magical, most enchanted place on earth. It needs to be preserved for many more generations in the future.  


This special place is threatened with a new dam. If you are a Washington resident, please take a minute to email SnoPUD and urge them to abandon the Sunset Falls dam project. Then tell your friends to do the same.

You can also visit to learn more about the river and sign a petition to build strength in numbers.

Learn more about the Sunset Falls dam project in the video below: