The Methow River is one of Washington’s finest streams, rising in near pristine condition in the remote Pasayten Wilderness of the North Cascades. A tributary of the upper Columbia River, the Methow joins the Columbia just downstream of the Canadian border. After its descent from the Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest, the Methow winds through the verdant Methow Valley, where it was historically diverted for agriculture along the river. More recently, the Methow River has been the focus of extensive habitat restoration and enhancement, especially to improve condition for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. The valley itself has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, thanks to its outstanding scenery and the fact that much of it is protected in public national forest and wilderness areas with superb recreation opportunities.
In the heart of the Methow Valley, Western Rivers Conservancy is acquiring two crucial properties: the historic 328-acre Wagner Ranch on the Chewuch River; and the 35-acre Stafford Ranch on the Methow. Our efforts will enable critically needed restoration of salmon and steelhead habitat while conserving hundreds of acres of prime forestland, wetlands, river frontage and floodplain habitat within a landscape of protected areas. Both ranches are at high risk of being subdivided and developed barring WRC’s successful efforts.
Our partner on both projects is the Yakama Nation. Once WRC acquires the ranches and the Yakama secure funding from the Bonneville Power Administration, we will transfer the properties to the tribe. The Yakama will then conduct extensive restoration of side channels, flood plains, wetlands, river frontage and riparian areas as part of its Yakama Nation Fisheries Upper Columbia Habitat Restoration Project.
The Wagner Ranch spans 1.6 miles of the Chewuch River (also known as the North Fork of the Methow), which is the headwaters of the Methow. The property is one of the largest contiguous tracts of private riverfront ownership remaining in the Methow Valley and adjoins a 14,800-acre unit of the Methow Wildlife Area. The Stafford property controls a large swath of Methow River frontage on both sides of the main-stem and possesses a critical groundwater right that will allow the Yakama to re-water dried side-channels, providing crucial spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead.
In addition to improving vital fish and wildlife habitat, WRC’s efforts will safeguard recreational access to the Methow Community Trail, which crosses the Stafford Ranch and is maintained by the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association for year-round use. Our work will also help preserve the unique natural and historic character of the Methow Valley, which draws tens of thousands of tourists every year who come to hike, bike, cross-country ski, hunt, fish, climb and paddle, and who drive local economies throughout the year.
Oct 23, 2018
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.