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Washington Wild Coordinates Letter in Support of Responsible Access to North Fork Nooksack River

North Fork Nooksack River by Thomas O’Keefe

On April 27, Washington Wild sent a letter undersigned by 27 conservation, recreation, wildlife organizations, and businesses to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board. The letter supports funding for an access site in the North Fork Nooksack River that will promote safe and responsible recreation, enhance ecological restoration, and benefit local economic prosperity.

The North Fork Nooksack River in Whatcom County is a remarkable site that attracts boaters, paddlers, and other recreationists. The river also holds deep cultural significance to Native communities, including the Nooksack Indian Tribe and Lummi Nation, who are actively working to restore riparian forest and protect critical salmon habitat within the Nooksack watershed.

The proposed funding (WWRP State Lands Development Grant #22-1286) aims to improve responsible recreation by addressing a gap in public river access identified in previous planning efforts. 

There are currently two public access sites for the North Fork Nooksack River: Horseshoe Bend Trailhead and Welcome Bridge. With 19 miles of distance between the two sites, day trips are too far, which leads boaters and paddlers to illegally trespass on public and private lands to take their boats out of the river. This behavior is causing destruction of sensitive riparian habitat. 

Establishing a new managed site to access the river between the two existing sites will make sure sensitive ecological sites remain protected, while also improving vehicle and pedestrian safety with a designated parking area to get vehicles off the shoulder of Washington State Route 542.

The steady flow of visitors to this popular destination is essential to the economies of local communities like Maple Falls. It’s critical that managed access to this remarkable river be improved for the benefit of all.