Over the hills, through the woods, and just right of the Cascade Crest lies the second largest natural lake in Oregon. Waldo Lake is a 9.8 sq. mile expanse of pristine waters that are saidto be more pure than laboratory grade distilled water. Nature lovers of all sorts, from hikers to kayakers, ultra-marathoners to campers, are drawn to the primitive land surrounding the lake.
There is no better natural quiet anywhere else in Oregon than that of Waldo Lake. Maiden Peak and Fuji Mountain border the lake in the far off distance creating a shadowy contrast to the sharp blue waters. Beyond the old noble firs, streams and meadows weave along the sloping ridges and the Pacific Crest Trail. As if it were the Walden Pond of the west, visitors come to experience true transcendentalist moments; being wholly taken by the beauty of nature.
In order to maintain the natural quiet, amazingly clean water quality, and general splendor, Oregon passed legislation in 2013 that bans the use of motorized recreational activities. Before the ban, the motorized land and water use disrupted the habitat of a wide variety of animals such as Pileated Woodpeckers, Sooty and Ruffed Grouse, and threatened species such as Spotted Owls, Pine Martins, and Pacific fisher.
Waldo Lake is a place where you can spend a few days getting lost and finding yourself again.
Located in the Central Cascade range of Washington State, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1976 and has become one of the most visited Wilderness units in the country. The current wilderness includes some of the most rugged topography of the Cascades that provide a setting for over 700 lakes, along with craggy peaks, glacier-carved valleys, with elevations ranging from 2,000 to 9,500 feet . This elevation range contains a broad array of habitats, from dense, wet forests to high alpine tundra, with the diverse flora and fauna that call each place home.
The Alpine Lakes has been described as Seattle's backyard Wilderness with numerous trail heads only 50 miles east of Puget Sound's metropolitan areas.
Alpine Lakes provides important wildlife habitat with vast recreational opportunities that bolsters local economies. In addition, there are rare low elevation old growth and mature forests adjacent to the wilderness that are well worth protecting. Statewide, of the roughly 2.6 million acres of designated Wilderness on national forest land; just 6 percent includes low elevation lands (below 3,000 feet). Don’t let the lack of protection fool you, these lower elevation lands are just as stunning and environmentally significant as their higher elevation neighbors.
These lower elevation wild mountain valleys boast abundant elk and deer populations as well as other threatened and endangered species. Cougars, bears and bobcats quietly roam these trees as well, and at least one grizzly bear has been sighted in the Pratt River Valley.
The Pratt, Middle Fork and South Fork Snoqulamie River watersheds are also sources of clean water, important for downstream fisheries and commercial and residential water users. Additionally, more than 1.5 million tourists visit the downstream Snoqualmie Falls each year.
While a Wilderness of nearly 400,000 acres was designated in 1976, the work of protection this magnificent place is only partially complete with nearly 200,000 additional wild and undeveloped acres being left without permanent protection.
Only 25 miles from the Puget Sound urban zone, many locals and travelers have enjoyed the rivers rushing with salmon and steep forested climbs of the Wild Sky Wilderness. The 106,577 acres of the Wild Sky Wilderness were finally designated in 2008 after a six year legislative struggle. Sponsored by Washington democrats Senator Patty Murray and Representative Rick Larsen, Wild Sky is the first federally designated wilderness on national forest land in the state since 1984.
Conservation groups worked closely with decision makers and local communities to accommodate a variety of recreation uses when developing this robust proposal. For example, Barclay Lake was removed from the Wilderness proposal to make sure that large parties of scouting troupes, children's camps and community groups could continue to bring lots of people to this very popular destination. The Wild Sky has become one of the premier destinations for boating, hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, berry picking and bird watching.
The Wild Sky includes many important low-elevation forest areas important for wildlife that also protect salmon spawning streams as well. Within its boundaries the mountains contain some of the steepest slopes in Washington, with Mount Baring and Mount Index towering above the ancient forest. From these mountain overlooks there lies a full scope of the landscape types, from lower elevation forests up to sub-alpine parklands and granite spires. The lower forests contain carpets of western hemlock and silver fir, extending down slope to old growth of Douglas fir and western red cedar.
The protections afforded by the Wild Sky Wilderness allow wildlife to thrive in their natural habitat, with salmon benefiting from the wild rivers within the protected areas.
People travel from near and far to visit these cathedrals of nature. In fact, the rustic wilderness welcomes any and all to come enjoy the natural splendor. No matter how old your dog, or how young your child, there is a trail suited to all types of adventurers and levels of capability.
For a state that ranks 5th in the nation for the most wilderness designations, this crown-jewel of Idaho’s landscape is still unprotected. Boulder-White Clouds is worthy of permanent protection and has had the strong support of Idahoans for decades. The most hopeful opportunity for protecting this area is a national monument designation.
Why has this land garnered so much respect from naturalists and Idaho natives alike? Simple, Boulder White- Clouds is an ecological cornucopia; it is where salmon swim 900 miles to spawn; it is where unique and rare species such as bighorn sheep and the ever elusive wolverine call home; and it is where outdoor enthusiasts travel from across the world come to gape at over 150 mountains towering at 10,000 feet into the sky.
The headwaters of four rivers meet inside this 571,276-acre region. Along the rivers and lakes sagebrush sprawls up around dense conifer forests. The lush green nestles in between the ivory mountain faces spackled in ancient volcanic soils. This stunning and tender landscape contains diverse wildlife throughout the year. It’s growing, evolving and inspiring at every moment.
Idahoans have been standing together to protect this place for four decades. But despite multiple proposals, many compromises, and much effort, the area still lacks protections. Today, the most likely path forward to give the region the protection it deserves is as a National Monument. This landscape has waited long enough and now we are urging the President to use his authority to act under the Antiquities Act and create the Boulder-White Clouds National Monument that will ensure this iconic landscape is around for current and future generations.