USFS Logo The North Cascades Study Report
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The North Cascade Mountains Study Area comprises some of the finest scenic, scientific and recreation resources we have in the United States. Considering the entire region, the National Park Service suggests a grand design based on ideal approaches aimed toward proper use, development and preservation of these outstanding resources.

When one looks at the study area, it becomes apparent that there are four major targets for scenery, scientific interest and recreational opportunities.

First, there is the target of Mount Rainier and the surrounding country to the east.

Second, there is the wild scenic Alpine Lakes and Mount Stuart region. It is also encircled with a recreational landscape of exceptional variety and potential, and close to the major population centers of Puget Sound.

Third, there is the renowned wild beauty of Glacier Peak and the snowy Cascade Crest north to Eldorado. Here again it is enfolded by country of enormous recreational potential, perhaps the best of its kind in the Cascades. Recreational development possibilities there are exciting, to say the least.

And to the North, next to Canada, the crescendo of North Cascade Mountain scenery and scientific interest occurs in the Mount Baker-Shuksan-Picket Range region. These are recreational lands of the highest inspirational quality.

Major Scenic Scientific and Recreation Target Areas. (click on image for a PDF version)

Flow Patterns of Recreation Use Today. (click on image for a PDF version)

Scenic Road and Parkway Possibilities. (click on image for a PDF version)

A recreational area of less scenic but nonetheless impressive potential lies to the east in the Okanogan country. It has important wilderness values and a climate and topography that is ideal for outdoor activities.

The flow of use in the study area today indicates that the bulk of recreation use now is local, emanating from the centers of population nearby. But it should be noted also that the pattern of out-of-State use is now mainly directed at Mount Rainier because of its international reputation. It is significant, too, that out-of-State travel to the Cascades from Canada is increasing.

A very noticeable pattern of use today, marked by the recreation substudy team in its report, is the sun-chasing movement of recreationists back and forth from the cooler, more spectacular west side to the sunny and drier slopes east of the Cascade Crest. This pattern of use relates closely to the target areas mentioned earlier. The country east of Mount Rainier, south and east of Mount Stuart, the Lake Chelan country and the Okanogan country all provide sunny complements to the more splendid but also more frequently inclement country farther west. It is indeed a collaboration of nature in behalf of recreation.

One should always remember that many more people see this region from the windows of an automobile than in any other way. It is, therefore, in order to examine the road system that serves the study area. Much more could be done with the major existing roads to make them more enjoyable to the visiting public and the local motorists. It is reassuring to see that progress is being made to improve this situation with the forethought being given the trans-Cascade Highway now under construction and in a number of Forest Service road projects.

New road possibilities are interesting. The Cascades could be made more accessible and more enjoyable by such projects, especially if they are truly scenic roads or parkways. In addition to the trans-Cascade Highway, already under construction, there is another possibility from the Stevens Pass route up through Cady and Curry gaps into the Glacier Peak country.

It does not seem feasible to contemplate a linear north-south parkway along the Cascades, desirable as this might seem at first consideration. Terrific scarring of landscape and severe weather conditions appear to preclude such a road. An improved Cascade Crest Trail offers a partial substitute for it; moreover, there are many loops into the Cascade country which can provide great recreational opportunity in large capacity. A prime example is the loop highway up the Sauk and down the Stillaguamish Valleys from a route that is now only a secondary road. These should be of scenic road quality.

There are a number of feasible routes for spur and loop roads that can be developed for access to the threshold of the mountains. Roads and overlooks such as at Buck Creek Pass up the Chiwawa River appear to offer excellent opportunities for scenic viewing on a grand scale. Another possibility might be the linking of Heather Meadows and Baker Lake.

Travel along the mountain crest will certainly become an increasingly popular trail experience, and the Cascade Crest Trail is a very significant part of the North Cascades access concept. In fact, development of more and better trails throughout the region is very important to the enjoyment and use thereof.

In studying the accessibility potentials of the Cascades, one cannot but be excited over the unique travel opportunities of two great waterways into the heart of the region, Lake Chelan and Ross Lake. Here is a different sort of travel experience—by water—which, if developed and managed with imagination, could give a unique and memorable form of recreational access to thousands of visitors. For this reason, the National Park Service believes that water should be the only access to these heartland areas, offering an additional dimension of travel opportunity in the Cascades.

In developing recreation opportunities in the area, management might well borrow from the imaginative mass transit approach of European recreation managers who have utilized—perhaps for different economic reasons but with very successful results—the funicular, the monorail, the tramway and other dramatic but relatively inconspicuous means of access up into the mountains.

With these patterns in mind, consider again the four target areas mentioned at the outset. Among them today the goal that is by far the best known and most attractive to the Nation as a whole is Mount Rainier. The importance of protecting scenic and recreation resources for future enjoyment; the growing need and demand for them; the pronounced increase in out-of-State travel—in many states, to the point of being a leading industry; the impressive future of the Puget Sound country as a population center and as a recreation center (and the two are inter-related) all lead to the question what shall be done with and for these targets? How should they be managed for optimum benefit to the Nation as a whole and to the State of Washington in particular?

Management Proposals. (click on image for a PDF version)

The recommendations of the National Park Service for management are as follows:

1. The Service proposes an enlarged Mount Rainier National Park to provide an eastside environment with visitor facilities and interpretive services developed as an integral part of the Park complex. An extension to the south to include the remainder of the Tatoosh Range is also proposed.

2. The National Park Service recommends the magnificent heartland of wild country in the Alpine Lakes and Mount Stuart and Enchantment Lakes region as a Wilderness area, which could be the core of a larger surrounding recreation region.

3. The National Park Service recommends a National Park surrounding Glacier Peak.

4. National Park status should be accorded that climactic, Cascade country occurring from the Skagit Valley to the Canadian boundary, west of Ross Lake, embracing Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, the Picket Range and adjacent mountain country.

5. East of Ross Lake a North Cascade Wilderness Area should be established to protect a primitive region that is ideal for wilderness travel and experience.

6. In the region north and east of Glacier Peak the recreation lands are so outstanding, having, as they do, major water resources and scenic values of their own complementary to the area qualifying as a park that National Recreation Area designation is recommended there.

7. Design and development of a system of scenic drives and parkways in the Cascades region should receive high priority.

8. The recreational lands around Baker and Ross Lakes; those surrounding the wilderness heartland of the Alpine Lakes and Mount Stuart, and the land to the east of Mount Rainier National Park and its proposed eastward extension, are also of especial value in serving both State and out-of-State needs, and offer a wide variety of recreation opportunity. This is also true of the Okanogan Country. These areas should be given special protection and management for recreational use.

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Last Updated: 26-Mar-2010