The Methow River is one of Washington’s finest streams, rising in near pristine condition in the remote Pasayten Wilderness of the North Cascades. After its descent from the Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest, the Methow winds through the verdant Methow Valley, a spectacular notch of cold rivers, rolling foothills, historic towns and pristine wilderness areas carved into the rugged Cascade Range.
The Methow was historically diverted for agriculture along the river, but has more recently become the centerpiece of a recreational mecca for fly anglers, cross-country skiers, hikers and others. The Methow River has also been the focus of extensive habitat restoration, especially for imperiled 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 working to protect two crucial properties that we purchased in 2018: 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 to protect them.
Our partner on both projects is the Yakama Nation, which hopes to acquire and restore both properties as part of its Yakama Nation Fisheries Upper Columbia Habitat Restoration Project. The tribe plans to conduct extensive restoration of side channels, flood plains, wetlands, river frontage and riparian areas for the benefit of fish and wildlife.
The Wagner Ranch spans 1.6 miles of the Chewuch River, the Methow’s principal tributary. 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.