On Washington’s Lake Wenatchee, a 3,714-acre parcel of forested mountainside known as Nason Ridge rises above the lakeshore, surrounded almost entirely by the Okanogan National Forest. It is crisscrossed by a network of hiking, mountain-biking and cross-country skiing trails enjoyed by people from all over, and which link to an equally robust trail system in the neighboring Lake Wenatchee State Park.
In a rare opportunity in north-central Washington, WRC is tackling the needs of conservation, community and local industry by working to acquire a property to benefit all three.
Lake Wenatchee is an alpine jewel in the North Cascades and the source of the Wenatchee River, a crucially important stream for imperiled salmon, steelhead, bull trout and other cold-water fish. Immediately downstream of the lake, a stream called Nason Creek flows into the Wenatchee, injecting the river with life-giving cold water and providing habitat for multiple species of imperiled fish.
This month, Western Rivers Conservancy completed its second land acquisition on Washington’s Big Sheep Creek, placing 1,440 more acres surrounding this critical stream on the path toward conservation. Now that we own all 2,440 acres of the Bennett Meadows Tract, we can focus on transferring this incredible assemblage of riverland, meadowland, wetlands and conifer forest into the long-term care of a conservation steward.
Big Sheep Creek is an appropriate name for this Columbia River tributary in remote northeast Washington. After flowing out of the Monashee Mountains on the Canadian border, the creek winds through an area known as “the Wedge,” a prime movement corridor for large mammals traveling between the United States and Canada. Caribou, moose, grizzly, Canada lynx, Rocky Mountain elk, wolverine and the creek’s namesake bighorn sheep all inhabit in the area. And they depend on Big Sheep Creek for the excellent habitat it provides.
In the remote northeast corner of Washington, Big Sheep Creek snakes its way out of the Monashee Mountains and winds through a wide valley of conifer forests, meadows and wetlands rich with wildlife. Rare redband and bull trout inhabit the creek, and the gentle, fertile terrain of the river valley makes it the region’s prime migration route for large mammals moving north and south between Canada and the United States. Moose, caribou, grizzly bear, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain goat and bighorn sheep all move regularly through the area. The valley is also home to rare predators like Canada lynx and wolverine.