From North Cascades Institute

Search Chattermarks


Pacific Wren

Shooting Stars: Nighttime Photography, Wildflowers and More

November 27th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

By Rob Rich

I came to the Pacific Northwest for many reasons, but one of them was, well, for the birds. Were those harlequin ducks for real? What was so special about the Pacific wren? And oh, how I longed to see the red-shafted Northern Flicker! These were some of my last thoughts before finally chasing the sun towards the Salish Sea. But since most birds don’t migrate from East to West, I knew I’d need a guide to set me straight.

Thankfully, I’d planned North Cascades Institute’s Spring Birding to be my first stop upon arrival. That’s right, I signed up from 3,000 miles away, tossed out my moving boxes in Bellingham and settled first things first: learning birds in the field with Libby Mills.

If you too feel like a lost goose at times, do not fear. Spring Birding is back, as are a host of other older Institute favorites – and some new ones that look out of this world. Literally. Where else but North Cascades Institute can you take a class that is astronomically synchronized for the nighttime awe of photographers? And where else can you hang out with snake experts, or decipher the clues of wildlife tracks in our precious winterscapes? As always, the great unveiling of the Institute’s January-June courses will expose natural curiosities you never knew you had. Experienced and emerging naturalists alike will both be forced to reckon with a growing list of reasons why the North Cascades are where it’s at.

Night photo

» Continue reading Shooting Stars: Nighttime Photography, Wildflowers and More

YLC (1 of 1)

Youth Leadership Conference 2015 in the North Cascades; now accepting applications

September 3rd, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

Applications for our 2015 Youth Leadership Conference are now being accepted! The conference is held at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center November 6-8 and is open to students ages 14-22 who are alumni of our youth programs, including Youth Leadership Adventures, Mountain School, Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth, and Concrete Summer Learning Adventure.

YLC (1 of 1)-6

Information and application at Due date is Friday, October 2nd!

2012 YLC ©Jess Newley (2 of 5)

YLC (1 of 1)-4




North Cascades Institute open for business; Fall 2015 programs

September 3rd, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

It has been quite a wild ride over the past two weeks with the Goodell Fire in the North Cascades and resulting evacuation of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, the arrival of fire crews to set up resource protection around our campus, and then the torrential rains that came just in the nick of time as the fire was approximately one mile (as the raven flies) away.

After a few days of catching our breath, moving back in to the Learning Center and getting everything back up and running, we’re very pleased to be able to offer our many Fall Programs as scheduled. We have a ton of things coming up, both here on Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park, as well as in the field (Chelan Ridge, Methow Valley, Bellingham Bay, Baker Lake) and in bookstores around Cascadia (Bellingham, Darrington, Guemes Island, Seattle, Sedro-Woolley).

Below you’ll find a listing of our many different offerings coming up over the next couple of months, with links to more information and registration. You can also visit our website and Facebook page, call our front desk team at (360) 854-2599 or shoot us an email with any questions to

We’re grateful for each of you for your continued outpouring of support and for our partners in the National Park Service, Seattle City Light and US Forest Service and for the firefighters, first responders, National Guard, U.S. Army servicemen and women and others working on the wildfires across Washington State.

We’ve been made stronger by this crisis and are happy to report that North Cascades Institute is OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

» Continue reading North Cascades Institute open for business; Fall 2015 programs


Rain eases wildfire threat, SR20 reopens, evacuation lifted

August 31st, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center received 2.5 inches of rain over the last 48 hours, and more is expected through Friday! All of the wildfires in the Upper Skagit Complex are diminished and the Goodell Fire is no longer considered a significant threat to the Environmental Learning Center or Diablo. The Washington State Department of Transportation opened State Route 20 at noon on Sunday, August 30, and our evacuation order was lifted. North Cascades Institute is currently working to reopen the Environmental Learning Center and assume normal operations, including the start of Mountain School as scheduled on September 14.

As Learning Center Director Kristofer Gilje remarked, “This all ended as fast as it started.”



We still have concerns about travel in the Newhalem Gorge. Even during non-fire years, this much rain brings debris down onto the roadway. The DOT is keeping the road clear, but take special care when traveling through the Gorge. You may encounter rocks and trees on the roadway, and be prepared to turn back or to be delayed in your return. Temporary, intermittent closures may be required for helicopter and heavy equipment work on power lines and towers. For the latest updates, visit or contact the North Cascades Highway Hotline at (360) 707-5055.

North Cascades National Park reopened the Newhalem Visitor Center and many campgrounds and trails. For current park conditions visit,

North Cascades Institute thanks each and every one of you for the continued outpouring of support. You’ve helped us evacuate the Learning Center safely, opened your homes to our displaced staff, voiced your concerns and sent us countless messages of hope. We continue to be grateful for you, for our partners in the National Park Service, Seattle City Light and US Forest Service and for the firefighters, first responders, National Guard, U.S. Army servicemen and women and others working on the wildfires across Washington State.

Your financial support is another way to help us in this tumultuous time of program cancellations and restructuring, lost revenue and displaced staff. Thank you for making a gift today at

We also encourage you to support families in need on the eastside of the state. The Community Foundation of North Central Washington has compiled a list of resources at



Firecrews arrive at the Learning Center

August 28th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

The Goodell Fire in North Cascades National Park has expanded and totalled 6,716 acres on Aug 27, burning on both sides of State Highway 20 and the Skagit River near the town of Newhalem, the North Cascades National Park Visitor Center and Newhalem campground. The fire also continues to creep eastward up Newhalem Gorge along both sides of Gorge Lake in the direction of Diablo and the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.

We were much relieved when firefighting crews arrived on campus on Aug 26 to begin resource protection activities. The Learning Center is a hive of activity with fire crews on site, including three engines from Darrington, Index and Concrete. Crews have begun installing water pumps in Diablo Lake and hoses and sprinklers throughout campus and surveying the campus  for vegetation removal to create defensible space.



» Continue reading Firecrews arrive at the Learning Center


North Cascades Wildfire updates

August 25th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

Yes, Washington State is on fire; and we’re still here. We are posting updates on the Upper Skagit Complex wildfires and their impacts on the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and North Cascades Institute on our website at and Facebook page at Additionally, we are uploading photos and maps on our Tumblr at


State Route 20, the Learning Center, Newhalem, Diablo and most North Cascades National Park facilities remain closed to the public. Wildfire conditions are changing rapidly, and the Institute is working with our partners around-the-clock to keep on top of things. It is becoming clear that the range of impacts to the Institute and our operations will have both near-term and far-terms impacts.


We are grateful for all of the support we’ve received from Institute supporters, partners and friends over the past week. Thank you.


Photographs from the Goodell Creek Fire in North Cascades National Park Complex on 8/19/15 by RyanLF. He writes, “I was one of the last cars to make it though the North Cascades Highway yesterday. The smoke was so thick it blocked out the sun. Lots of debris on the road and ash in the air…Hopefully they can get it under control soon.”


Diablo Dam

View from Diablo Dam

August 22nd, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

A view looking west from Diablo Dam down the Skagit River Gorge towards Newhalem and the Goodell Creek Fire from Wednesday 8/19, 3:15 pm. By Institute graduate student Joe Loviska. We’re posting more photos from the wildfire at North Cascades Institute updates are at and on our Facebook page at