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Wild Sky Wilderness

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Clouds hang low near the tops of Basin blow gunn.
Library image #2066: Basin blow gunn

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the Wild Sky Wilderness (map) in 2008 and it now has a total of 106,112 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Washington and is managed by the Forest Service. The Wild Sky Wilderness is bordered by the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness to the northeast.

Description

The Wild Sky Wilderness is the newest addition to a 2.6 million acre wilderness complex that straddles the rugged North Cascade Range from Canada to Snoqualmie Pass. The southwestern portion of the wilderness is only 25 miles from Puget Sound and adjacent to the fast growing communities of the Skykomish River Valley. The western part of the wilderness is characterized by very steep slopes and dramatic local relief. For example, from the North Fork Skykomish River near the town of Index, the terrain rises from about 600 feet above sea level to over 6,000 feet, on Gunn Peak, in less than 3 miles. Annual precipitation in this area runs between 150 to 200 inches annually, most of it coming as snow during the wet winter months. Runoff from the rain and snow feed streams that drop into the deep valleys below. This source of clean water is important to salmon which spawn in these reaches and provide exciting spring raft trips on the Skykomish River. Vegetation is dense on the valley walls, composed of Douglas fir, western red cedar and western hemlock at the lower elevations, grading to silver fir and mountain hemlock in the mid elevations to sub alpine parklands in the higher reaches. Timberline in the area is relatively low, between 4,500 and 5,000 feet. The higher peaks such as Merchant, Gunn, and Spire sport permanent ice patches on their north and east slopes. Trails in this part of the wilderness are few and cross-country travel is difficult.

East of the Beckler River, and the Straight Creek Fault, the terrain changes dramatically; the local relief is less dramatic, the geology is less chaotic and precipitation less. The ridges are more uniform in elevation and gentle enough to support large meadows. This is trail country! Trails including Meadow Creek, West Cady Creek and Johnson Ridge lead through forest to these flowery meadows. Several trails are open to use by stock animals and wonderful loop trips pass through the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness to the Pacific Crest Trail, and back to Wild Sky. The Evergreen Mountain Lookout is a rental cabin that will continue to operate within the wilderness. At 5,587 feet, it provides a spectacular perch to watch the sunset over the rough peaks of Wild Sky and take in the panoramic view from Glacier Peak to Mt. Rainier.

Stands of old growth forest cover portions of the area with large diameter Douglas fir, hemlock and western red cedar. The West Cady Ridge Trail leads through a prime example of these large trees which provide critical habitat for a variety of bird and animal species. Scattered around the new wilderness are forest areas previously roaded and logged. Logging began around 1920 and continued into the early 1990¿s. Signs of past mining exploration are also evident, particularly in the Silver Creek area. Young trees are now healing the scars of these past activities. The area holds about a dozen mountain lakes that attract anglers. Lake Isabel is the largest of these at about 1.5 miles long and 200 feet deep. The historic use of float planes is allowed to continue on the lake.

Planning to Visit the Wild Sky Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Wild Sky Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.



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