WRC Blog

WRC Launches Its First Project in Washington's Methow Valley

Oct 30th, 2018  |  Written by Western Rivers Conservancy

WRC Launches Its First Project in Washington's Methow Valley
Photo by Dr. Ellen Bishop

The Methow Valley is a spectacular notch of cold rivers, pristine wilderness areas, rolling foothills and tiny, historic towns that cuts across eastern Washington. At the heart of the valley is the Methow River, a critical salmon and steelhead stream fed by smaller tributaries that tumble cold and clear from the North Cascade Mountains. The largest of these tributaries is the Chewuch River, where WRC has launched one of its newest conservation efforts.

The Chewuch is the headwaters of the Methow and provides healthy, unspoiled habitat for imperiled Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout. North of the town of Winthrop, WRC has purchased the historic 328-acre Wagner Ranch, which spans 1.6 miles of the Chewuch and abuts the 14,800-acre Methow Unit of Washington’s Methow Wildlife Area. The ranch was one of the largest contiguous tracts of privately owned riverfront left in the Methow Valley, which presented WRC with a tremendous conservation opportunity.

By purchasing the ranch and transferring it to the Yakama Nation, WRC will prevent hundreds of acres along this critical stretch of the Chewuch River from being subdivided and developed, the likely outcome if the ranch were left on the market. Our efforts will instead preserve the remote beauty of this historic ranch, while providing the Yakama the rare opportunity to restore a key stretch of the river where over a dozen different salmon habitat restoration opportunities have been identified. The project will enable improvements to side-channel and wetland connectivity and to riparian habitat that fish and wildlife depend on.

On top of the many benefits for fish and wildlife, the project will be a boon for people. Our efforts will safeguard the untouched character of this part of the valley, a setting that is cherished by countless hikers, cross-country skiers, hunters, birders, paddlers and anglers who visit and live in the Methow Valley. The Wagner Ranch itself is woven into the cultural fabric of the valley, formerly owned by the family who developed the Old West town of Winthrop, and later by the family who created the famed Sun Mountain Lodge. In the hands of the Yakama Nation, its existing open space and riparian habitat will remain undeveloped, serving the needs of fish and wildlife and all who enjoy the beauty of this unique slice of northern Washington.