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Jon Reidel

Jon Riedel: Glacier Geologist

October 11th, 2015 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

What do you do if you are a young midwestern college graduate with a degree in geology and a yearning for adventure, wilderness and outdoor work in the West? “You go to where the action is,” says Jon Riedel, and for him, that meant the North Cascades.

The North Cascades’ superlative features would excite any geologist: it’s the most glaciated region in the Lower 48, with the most vertical relief; the bedrock floor of Lake Chelan sits more than two thousand feet below sea level; dozens of ice ages and glaciations have contorted the landscape into an infinite number of “problems” waiting to be solved. And better yet, the region had largely been ignored by geologists due to its remoteness and difficult access. Riedel found his calling and soon landed a job with North Cascades National Park as a geologist.

“The deductive approaches used in geomorphology—the study of the earth’s surface—caught on with me,” he explains.“The ability to read the landscape and see into the past was intoxicating.”

Coming from the Midwest, Riedel found that everything in the North Cascades was different: the brush was thick and the slopes steep, making exposed rock difficult to find and study sites challenging to get to. So Riedel focused on more easily visible surficial geology features such as alluvial fans, floodplains, terraces, moraines, valleys, and of course, glaciers. With persistence and many miles underfoot, Riedel began to understand what makes the North Cascades unique.

» Continue reading Jon Riedel: Glacier Geologist


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



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.”


Facing Climate Change – The Tinder People

Fires and floods: North Cascades federal lands prepare for climate change

November 20th, 2014 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

By Hannah Hickey, University of Washington News and Information

In a country that boasts an awe-inspiring system of national parks, the Pacific Northwest may be especially lucky. But even remote parks and forests can’t escape the problem of human-induced climate change.

Future shifts could affect everything from how people access the parks to what activities are possible once they arrive – not to mention the plants and animals that call those places home.

For a report released this week, University of Washington scientists worked with federal agencies to pinpoint natural resources sensitive to a warmer climate in the North Cascades region, and outline detailed management responses to minimize the adverse impacts on land and in water.

The report, “Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the North Cascades region, Washington,” was led by the U.S. Forest Service’s Portland-based Pacific Northwest Research Station.Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
It is the largest climate change adaptation effort on federal lands to date.

The partnership took a wide view for managing federal lands in the North Cascades. Participants in the North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership were the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the North Cascades National Park Complex and Mount Rainier National Park. The UW’s Climate Impacts Group provided scientific expertise.

“It‘s critical that we work across agency boundaries to ensure that techniques for responding to climate change are effective,” said editor David Peterson, a UW affiliate professor of environmental and forest science and a research biologist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station.

In a region famous for its snowy peaks and lush greenery, the report emphasizes impacts related to hydrologic systems. Watersheds in the North Cascades are expected to become increasingly dominated by rain rather than snow. This will cause more fall and winter floods on much of the roughly 10,000 miles of roads in the North Cascades.

“Events like the floods of 2006 that closed Mount Rainier National Park for six months affect both access and infrastructure,” said Randy King, superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park. “If there are techniques that can reduce the damage, we need to take a hard look at them.”


» Continue reading Fires and floods: North Cascades federal lands prepare for climate change


North Cascades Institute open for business

October 18th, 2013 | Posted by in Institute News

We are relieved that the 16-day federal government shutdown is finally over and we are able to reopen the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center again.

The closure of North Cascades National Park forced us to cancel four different Mountain School sessions, impacting more than 300 students, teachers and parent chaperones. (You can read about how Bellingham fifth-graders from Wade King Elementary felt about having their Mountain School cancelled on our blog at

The dysfunction in Washington D.C. also meant that we had to furlough nine staff members; shut down our five bookstores; Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
cancel a nature journaling class, a luncheon for Skagit Tours, a yoga retreat and two Group Rentals contracts for staff retreats; and cancel or return food deliveries from local farms.

All in all, we estimate that we’ve lost $65,000 in revenue over these past two weeks.

But the shutdown is over now, the park and Learning Center reopened, and we’re looking for ways to bring the disappointed fifth-graders up to Mountain School later this season. As a good friend of ours pointed out, “Our children need our parks and our parks need our children.”

Plus, the sun is out, there is new snow dusting the peaks and the larches on the eastslope and vine maples to the west are in glorious fall  color!

Thanks for your continued support.

Photo by Ethan Welty.

Congratulations Jon Riedel!

November 6th, 2012 | Posted by in Institute News

North Cascades Institute heartily congratulates our friend Dr. Jon Riedel of North Cascades National Park. Last week, National Park Service Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz  announced the 2012  Awards for Natural Resource Management and Riedel, based in Sedro-Woolley, was rightly recognized. Here’s the official statement on Jon’s award, followed by some appreciations written by staff and students of the Institute who have worked with Jon in the field over the years…

Dr. Jon Riedel, North Cascades National Park geologist, has been recognized for three significant accomplishments. First, he led the team that, over the course of four years, developed the Stehekin River Corridor Implementation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. This comprehensive planning effort uses the best available science to protect natural and cultural resources, support the private community of Stehekin, and establish sustainable administrative facilities – all while continuing to provide high-quality recreational experiences for the public. Second, he developed the landmark North Cascades Glacier Monitoring Program. This program, which is in its 20th year, has set the standard for glacier monitoring in the National Park Service and is at the forefront of understanding the impacts of climate change on the North Cascades ecosystem. Third, he has passionately served as a teacher and mentor. He uses his extensive professional knowledge to serve as an informative and entertaining instructor for youth and adults. He also inspires youth to consider science-based careers through his work with the North Cascades Institute, including the nationally renowned Cascades Climate Challenge.


“Jon is one of those rare scientists who is also a superb teacher and mentor. He has been inspiring people since I met him in the mid-80’s—with his unique blend of enthusiasm, deep curiosity, academic rigor, and a love for this special part of the world.Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
I remember one of his early presentations on glaciers in the North Cascades. After a thorough introduction to the science, he moved us with a series of amazing mountain images combined with music. He speaks to both head and heart, and both at a high level. It’s been an honor to work with him over so many years.” – Saul Weisberg, Executive Director

» Continue reading Congratulations Jon Riedel!

North Cascades National Park’s Chip Jenkins named Deputy Regional Director

July 23rd, 2012 | Posted by in Institute News

Editor’s note: It with mixed emotions that we congratulate Superintendent Chip Jenkins on his promotion in the National Park Service this week. Chip has been a steadfast supporter of North Cascades Institute over the past five years — particularly our summer youth programs like Cascades Climate Challenge, North Cascades Wild and the Youth Leadership Conference, as well as the operations of our Learning Center on Diablo Lake — and we’re sad to see him go. At the same time, the NPS and the public are fortunate to have someone as professional, dynamic and passionate as Chip is moving up in to this important leadership role. We’ve seen Chip’s eyes sparkle when visiting with our students at remote sites on Ross Lake, and we know that he understands the life-changing values of outdoor experiences for young people, and the crucial role that the our national parks serve in connecting people to nature. He “gets it” and it has been a pleasure to work with him and his team in our partnership with North Cascades National Park. Congratulations Chip — onward!

Pacific West Region of the National Park Service News Release

July 19, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO  – Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, Jr., has been named Deputy Regional Director for Resource Stewardship and Planning for the National Park Service in the Pacific West Region. As Deputy Regional Director, he will be responsible for leading and managing park operations for 17 parks located in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, as well as the administration of four major program functions, Cultural Resources Management, Natural Resources Management, Planning and Environmental Compliance.  He will also serve as the Regional Director’s principal representative in the Pacific Northwest and the lead official for the Seattle office of the Pacific West Regional Office.

Jenkins has been on a detail in this role since April 2012.  He replaces Rory Westberg who recently retired after serving as the Deputy Regional Director for 8 years.

“Chip is a proven leader with an incredible track record for tackling tough issues and finding innovative solutions.  Highly personable, Chip is a strong team player, well known for building collaboration among peers, employees, with partners and within the community,” said Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz.  “I am delighted Chip accepted this position.  He will be an excellent addition to our region’s leadership team.”

Chip Jenkins, left, with North Cascades Institute executive director Saul Weisberg and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis

Jenkins has worked for the National Park Service since 1985.  Most recently, he served as Superintendent of North Cascades National Park, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and Ross Lake National Recreation Area in Washington.  He has also served as Superintendent of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Oregon and Washington, Chief of Strategic Planning of Yosemite National Park in California, as special assistant to the National Park Service Director, and as a resource specialist at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California.  He started his career as a seasonal ranger in North Cascades National Park.

In accepting the position Jenkins said, “I am honored to be offered the chance to work with these outstanding people that serve as stewards of the parks in the Pacific West Region.”

Jenkins is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental studies.  He also is a graduate of the NPS Resource Management Trainee Program.  In his spare time, Jenkins enjoys spending time with his family, skiing, hiking and camping.  He and his wife, Laurie Lee Jenkins, who also works for the National Park Service as an ecologist, have two young boys that continually show them the magic that can be found when exploring the Pacific Northwest.