The North Cascade Mountains in Washington State are defined by their majestic beauty—wild forests, wild rivers, and stunning vistas. The jewel of North Puget Sound, the Nooksack River, is the backbone of Bellingham and Whatcom County’s outdoor industry supporting a $705 million-recreation economy that includes hiking, rafting, fishing, climbing, hunting, skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, and kayaking. And the Nooksack is one of a few river systems in our state that provides freshwater habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon, including endangered Chinook salmon, as well as endangered steelhead and bull trout.
Show, Don’t Tell
Sure, I can tell you all about the Nooksack River’s beauty, splendor, and myriad recreation opportunities. Or describe what it’s like to run a raft through the thrilling Nozzle rapid on the North Fork, hike through the fern forest at Horseshoe Bend, or swing a fly in freezing January rain searching for that one wild, winter steelhead. It’s challenging to explain the exact reaches of the 113 river miles and nearly 35,000 acres of riverside land American Rivers is working to permanently protect in the upper Nooksack River system as Wild and Scenic. Sometimes it’s best to just take you there. So aside from an in-person tour of the watershed, we’ve put together a Story Map to show the why and the where of the work we’re doing in the Nooksack River basin.
A Guided Tour
As you scroll through the Story Map, you’ll see the river from top to bottom, from the high-gradient, glacially influenced North Fork, where whitewater boating and fishing are the norm to the steep, forested canyon of the Middle Fork where mostly expert kayakers lay claim, to the spring water fed, low gradient South Fork which flows through the agriculture landscape of the communities of Acme and Van Zandt. It’s about as close as you can get to the guided tour of the river Nooksack River basin and the natural, cultural, and recreational wonders that make it worth lasting protection under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.
Mapping It All Out
With such a diverse landscape and the multiple classifications within this potential Wild & Scenic designation, a static map won’t capture the entire story. The Nooksack Basin is a living landscape with diverse stakeholders, communities, and recreation opportunities, each with a particular interest in the basin. The Story Map shows in detail the 113 river miles proposed for Wild & Scenic designation, which include portions of the North, South, and Middle Forks of the river as well as the nine important tributaries.
While no technology can ever replace what it feels like to run a raft down the North Fork or swing a fly to willing bull trout, hike through the cedars in the shadow of Mt. Shuksan, or swim in the cool waters of the South Fork, our hope is that this Story Map shows why the Nooksack River and its tributaries are worthy of lasting protection under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. It should answer any questions you might have about specific information for each reach, maybe inspire you to take a river visit, and most importantly compel you to take action and sign our petition in support of our Nooksack Wild & Scenic River campaign.
This effort is part of our 5,000 Miles of Wild campaign: In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018, American Rivers and partners are working to protect 5,000 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and one million acres of riverside land nationwide. Learn more and get involved: www.5000Miles.org