Nooksack River Recreation Planning

credit-WildandScenicRiverToursCredit: Wild and Scenic River Tours

Flowing from the North Cascades through the forests and farmlands of Whatcom and Skagit Counties, the Nooksack River system is a unique watershed that provides important habitat for native fish and wildlife species. It is also a regional outdoor recreation haven, providing local residents and area visitors with fishing opportunities, scenic trails, idyllic riverside campsites, world-class whitewater boating, a rich assortment of wildlife viewing opportunities, and incredible winter sports including snowshoeing, snowboarding, and all forms of skiing: cross country, back-country, and downhill.

The purpose of the Upper Nooksack River Recreation Plan (Plan) is to provide guidance and recommendations for managing non-motorized recreation use in the river corridors of the upper Nooksack River system. The Plan recognizes and supports the benefits of recreation, along with the protection and restoration of the natural and cultural values of the upper river basin.

Nearly 600 individuals and organizations, including landowners, businesses, paddlers, anglers, hikers, skiers, and equestrians contributed to the plan’s development over the course of two years. The plan provides over 80 management recommendations for the river corridors of North, Middle, and South forks and several tributary streams of the upper Nooksack River system.

The Recreation Plan presents five key goals:

  1. Enhance the Coordination of Recreation Management with Protection and Recovery of Natural and Cultural Resources
  2. Provide Quality Public Information and Education Opportunities
  3. Maintain and Protect Current Recreation Diversity and Access
  4. Coordinate, Design, and Formalize Safe River Access
  5. Plan and Create Sustainable Trail Opportunities and Trail Connectivity

Recommendations in the plan are strictly voluntary and are not legally binding in any way to the land owners, managers, and recreationists, rather they are meant to provide informed input as to how riverside lands could be managed to meet both recreation and conservation goals. The Plan is a useful tool in articulating a shared vision and recommended actions to help secure necessary funding and set the stage for implementation of recommended actions.

The Plan was developed through a collaborative planning process led by American Rivers and the Upper Nooksack River Recreation Plan Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from American Rivers, American Whitewater, Hydropower Reform Coalition, Mount Baker Club, National Park Service, Nooksack Tribe, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Pacific Northwest Trail Association, the United States Forest Service – Mt. Baker Ranger District, Whatcom Chapter of Back Country Horseman of Washington, Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department, Whatcom Events (Ski to Sea Race), the Whatcom Land Trust, and Wild and Scenic River Tours. Technical assistance was provided by the National Park Service through a grant from the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.

The Nooksack River is one of the gems of the Pacific Northwest. It is the hope of American Rivers and the Advisory Committee that the clearly laid out recommendations in the Upper Nooksack River Recreation Plan will promote its protection and conservation while connecting local communities to the river through recreation, thus fostering a sense of stewardship to this unique and beautiful place.

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