Working toward a Wild & Scenic Nooksack River

The North Cascade Mountains in Washington State are defined by their majestic beauty—wild forests, wild rivers, and stunning vistas. The jewel of North Puget Sound, the Nooksack River, is the backbone of Bellingham and Whatcom County’s outdoor industry supporting a $705 million-recreation economy that includes hiking, rafting, fishing, climbing, hunting, skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, and kayaking. And the Nooksack is one of a few river systems in our state that provides freshwater habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon, including endangered Chinook salmon, as well as endangered steelhead and bull trout.

The Nooksack Wild and Scenic effort is about conserving the ecological and recreational values of this magnificent river system. A diverse array of interested citizens, business owners, and organizations has worked for years to build widespread public support for Wild and Scenic River legislation designed to permanently protect over 110 river miles and 35,000 acres of riverside habitat in the upper Nooksack basin, including portions of all three forks and nine tributary streams. 

Like much of the Northwest, some 40 hydroelectric dams have been proposed for various sites on the Nooksack since the 1970s, the legacy of logging impact remains along portions of the river, and a diversion dam on the the Middle Fork has blocked passage of salmon and steelhead for nearly 70 years. Tremendous efforts are underway to restore the ecological health and improve the habitat of the Nooksack River and protecting the headwaters as Wild and Scenic would help protect these investments in restoration.

What can you do to help?

  • Make sure to spend some time exploring the proposed designation and learn more about the basin on our Nooksack River Wild and Scenic Proposal Story Map.
  • Check out our Nooksack Wild and Scenic Campaign website. Sign the petition and share it with your networks.
  • This effort is part of American Rivers’ 5,000 Miles of Wild campaign, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018. Together, with some key partners, we are working to protect 5,000 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and one million acres of riverside land nationwide.
  • We are also sharing stories of America’s rivers and the people who love them. By collecting 5,000 personal stories from people across the country and presenting them in film, social media and other channels, we will celebrate how rivers connect us all. Share your story.

By: Jonathan Stumpf, Associate Director, American Rivers
Photos: Scott Perry (kayaking image), Brett Baunton (Nooksack River images)