Rare old forest and riparian habitat in the West Cascades
This 300-acre newly conserved site sits along the West Fork Washougal River and is home to old forest and riparian habitat that is increasingly rare and threatened in the West Cascades. The forest here is believed to have regenerated following the Yacolt Burns of the early 20th century, making it more than 100 years old.
The conserved area includes over one mile of the West Fork of the Washougal River and over a half mile of Jackson Creek—both of which are salmonid bearing streams. Because of the older trees that shade these two waterways and cool the water, this site carries cold water into the mainstem Washougal River, which is important for maintaining a water temperature beneficial to salmon.
Today the forest is noteworthy for its tall, old trees, the cool water flowing from the hillslopes, the diverse native vegetation, and the massive old snags created in the Yacolt Burn that are interspersed across the landscape. “On a hot summer day, it is a cool oasis of green and it supports a diversity of wildlife from salamanders and freshwater mussels to pollinators and larger mammals,” said Land Trust Stewardship Director Ian Sinks.
Our conservation goals here are to maintain the relatively old, forested habitat, protect water quality in the Washougal River watershed, and protect habitat for salmon and steelhead in the West Fork Washougal River. This site adjoins the 1,200-acre Wildboy Forest, which we conserved in 2020 and where we are collaborating with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to remove Kwoneesum dam — an unused 55-foot dam built half a century ago to create a summer camp swimming hole. Together, these two forests protect a network of waterways that connect the Cascade foothills to the Columbia River.
The property was conserved with grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, The Conservation Alliance, and a Department of Ecology Clean Water grant secured in partnership with the City of Washougal. Additionally, the family who previously owned this land worked with Columbia Land Trust for more than 20 years toward a conservation outcome and donated a portion of the value.