Washington

Sauk & Suiattle Rivers

Safeguarding top tributaries to the renowned Skagit River

Sauk and Suiattle rivers from far away
Sauk and Skagit River Basin
Photography | dreamstime
Sauk and Suiattle rivers
Washington's Sauk and Suiattle rivers.

The Sauk is the largest tributary to the Skagit River, flowing out of the Western Cascades. Part of the Wild and Scenic River System, anglers from across the country are drawn to the Sauk's top-notch salmon and steelhead fishery. The Sauk is also a popular boating river. Western Rivers Conservancy completed a series of acquisitions in the 1990s to preserve the Sauk's outstanding fishery, protect its wilderness headwaters and provide recreational access.

The Sauk River in the western Cascades is the biggest tributary to the Skagit and part of the Wild & Scenic River system. It is also a top-notch salmon and steelhead stream, fished by anglers from across the country. The Sauk is a restless, undammed river that likes to change course from time to time. In 1992, it threatened two twenty-acre-homes of local landowners. The landowners called their Congressional Representative, who called the Forest Service, who called Western Rivers Conservancy. We wanted to prevent a local outcry against the Wild & Scenic designation, which prohibits flood-control dams and levees. In 1993, Western Rivers Conservancy bought the two properties, tore down the buildings, cleaned up the land, resolved some title problems and donated the lands to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

In 1994, Western Rivers Conservancy bought 154 acres of patented mining claims in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area to prevent gold mining and logging. The claims where located at the headwaters of the South Fork Sauk River, an important salmon and steelhead stream. Mining the claims would have threatened this world-class fishery, in addition to degrading the wilderness values of the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area. Only an hour from the Seattle metropolitan area, the Wilderness Area is an inviolate alpine ecosystem readily accessible to the hiking, camping, climbing and skiing public. After purchase, Western Rivers Conservancy donated the claims to the Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest for inclusion in the Wilderness Area. The Henry M. Jackson Foundation contributed funds to help purchase and relinquish the claims.

In addition to its fish and wildlife values, the Sauk is a very popular boating river. For many years, the U.S. Forest Service had been interested in acquiring a site that would provide public access on the Sauk River for boating and recreation. In 1998, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the ideal location for boat access along the lower Sauk from a private landowner. This twenty-six-acre property is adjacent to Highway 530's bridge over the Sauk, making the site not only easily accessible, but also unmistakable to boaters coming downstream. The Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest owns and manages the property as part of the Skagit National Wild & Scenic River system.

Western Rivers Conservancy continued its efforts in the year 2000 to protect sensitive lands along the Skagit National Wild & Scenic River system with purchase of the Sauk and Suiattle River (major tributaries to the Skagit) confluence. This confluence area contains numerous gravel beds with high-quality salmon spawning grounds, abundant in-channel large woody debris and a healthy riparian forest. The 190-acre property was purchased from Queensgate L.L.C. The Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest now owns and manages the land as part of the National Wild & Scenic River system.

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