Celebrating five years of wilderness in Washington's Wild Sky

The beautiful Wild Sky designated wilderness area is located in the western Cascade Range of Washington state.

Kitty Craig

By Kitty Craig

I am proud and lucky enough to say that my family goes way back, almost 100 years, in Washington's Wild Sky country.

Wild Sky, located in Washington's western Cascade Range, was officially designated a wilderness area five years ago, after several legislative attempts to protect this remarkable region. The creation of Wild Sky Wilderness was a significant accomplishment for The Wilderness Society, as it marked the first federally designated wilderness area in Washington since 1984.

Photo: jneilson23, flickr

The Rasmussen homestead, where I'm from, lies at the end of Sultan Basin Road, framed by the jagged, imposing peaks of Wild Sky Wilderness in the distance. My grandfather grew up in that country, fishing nearly every river and stream in the basin and exploring the mountains of nearby valleys.

Like every grandchild who grows up too late to ask more meaningful questions, I long to hear his stories of the area, and to get his perspective on how the region has changed over the years. I think he’d be incredibly proud and truly grateful that the country he once explored by foot and Model T will forever be wilderness, preserved in a nearly pristine state. I know I am, and I have only explored a fraction of the landscape.

Photo: jneilson23, flickr

This week I was lucky enough to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act on a near perfect day in the small but mighty town of Index, Washington. I sheepishly admit it was my first time in Index (but my grandfather would be happy to know I finally made it!). I was blown away by its simple, rugged beauty set against a backdrop of the imposing Index wall, the crystal clear North Fork of the Skykomish that runs through town and the peaks of Mt. Index and Iron Mountain in the distance.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA) kicked off the anniversary celebration, recounting the six-year struggle to pass legislation that would make the 106,000 acre Wild Sky country a designated wilderness area. It was both inspiring and exciting to talk with myriad movers and shakers who worked so hard to make Wild Sky  Wilderness a reality.

These types of events are deeply inspiring and worth celebrating. Not only for remembering and honoring the journey to success but, more importantly, for the sparks that ignite the next wilderness campaign, conservation project and conversation about making the impossible plausible.

I left the celebration energized to explore the ridges and rivers of Wild Sky Wilderness (with my grandfather as a guide) and inspired to tackle the next big conservation win for The Wilderness Society. Happy 5th anniversary, Wild Sky!

Kitty Craig is the Regional Conservation Representative at The Wilderness Society. She works to protect, restore and raise awareness about Washington’s North Cascades region, one of the country’s largest and wildest ecosystems. 

Help protect the North Cascades!

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