The Skagit is a spectacular river in Southwestern BC that
embodies the full range of natural, cultural, and recreational values celebrated
by the Heritage Rivers System. The Skagit originates in the rugged North Cascades
Mountains and winds south through a broad, u-shaped valley before crossing
the 49th parallel into the United States. Most of the river travels through the US,
reaching the Pacific Ocean at Mount Vernon, Washington.
The Skagit's rainshadow climate supports Ponderosa pine and several other
plants of the BC Interior which
reach their western limit here. There are also sites with unique wild rhododendrons
in the Skagit valley. The watershed supports a wide variety of wildlife species,
including healthy trout populations that attract thousands of fly fishers from
the Lower Mainland. Other recreational pursuits in the valley include canoeing,
kayaking, hiking, car camping, horseback riding, and nature study.
The human history of the Skagit is rich. It was an important food-gathering
area for the Sto:lo First Nation and contains several archaeological sites
and trade routes from that period. Americans seeking routes to the Fraser River
gold rush built trails through the Skagit in the late 1850's. By 1911, three
gold rush towns had been built on the Canadian side of the border before the
boom was over. Ranchers and trappers came and went in the years following, but
the valley remained largely wilderness until a logging road came into the main
valley in 1946.
In the 1960's and '70's, the Skagit attained notoriety when activists
lobbied to save the valley bottom from flooding by the proposed "High Ross
Dam". The dam proposal would have flooded vast areas of Canadian and American
territory, but was rejected in 1983. In that year, the Skagit
Environmental Endowment Commission (SEEC) was
established to provide funding for education and environmental initiatives within
the Skagit Watershed.
Today, the Canadian portion of the Skagit Watershed is almost entirely
protected within the boundaries of three protected areas: Manning Provincial Park,
Skagit Valley Provincial Park, and the Cascade Recreation Area.
Proclaimed B.C. Rivers: