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Youth Ambassadors Trip Report: Old Growth Forest and Salmon

February 21st, 2018 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program is an extension of our Youth Leadership Adventures summer program. The goal of the program is to further develop leadership and outdoor skills, facilitate service and stewardship in our local communities and ecosystems, and provide college preparedness support to high school students from Skagit and Whatcom County. While serving as Ambassadors, students will participate in work parties, attend field trip and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum.

Appearing for the first time on Chattermarks is Youth Ambassador Stepheny Lopez, a student at Mount Vernon High School. In this post she shares her experience of learning about old growth forest at Rockport State Park and eagle watching in Marblemount. Enjoy! 

On the early morning of January 6, 2018, nine dedicated North Cascade Institute Ambassadors attended their first Youth Ambassadors field trip of the year. Ellie and Amy, our group’s mentors, took us eagle watching in Marblemount. Many of us in the group were given the opportunity to try and learn new things; we also gained awareness about job and career opportunities that can help our success, and inform others about our environment.

Ellie Price posing as an eagle at Rockport State Park; artwork by Don Smith

Our first stop was to Rockport State Park, thirty minutes east on Highway 20 from the North Cascade Visitor Center in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. While at Rockport, the first thing we did was gear up with warm clothing. For many of us, we did not know how much clothing to wear, due to it being our first time hiking in cold weather, but it was all definitely worth the experience. Emily Jankowski then joined us during our arrival to help chaperone the field trip. She is an AmeriCorps volunteer from Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. Then Rockport State Park’s Interpretive Specialist, Amos Almy, guided us on a half-mile walk around the park, and informed us of the area’s natural history throughout our time on the trail.

» Continue reading Youth Ambassadors Trip Report: Old Growth Forest and Salmon

You’re Never Too Old to be a Junior Ranger

February 7th, 2018 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Recently, graduate student Marissa Bluestein became a volunteer at Rockport State Park. She also earned her Junior Ranger badge and learned about old growth forest ecology. Below are her words on the experience:

I stood with my right hand raised in the converted maintenance shed serving as the Discovery Center at Rockport State Park and repeated after Ranger Amos:

“As a junior ranger, I promise to protect the environment, pick up trash, explore the outdoors and protect state parks for current and future generations.”

It was my first day volunteering at Rockport State Park, and I’d just went on my first guided hike. Within 45 minutes, I learned that Rockport has one of the last remaining old growth forests in the Skagit Valley, with some trees as old as 500 years. The Park’s camping is now forever closed due to diseases invading these old trees, causing them to die and fall.

The forest is made up of salmon. Salmon hatch in freshwater and make their way to the ocean where they eat food containing Nitrogen 15. Nitrogen 15 is only found in the ocean, and as salmon make their way back up their river of origin to spawn, they carry that chemical makeup with them. After salmon die, their bodies are taken from the river by eagles, which sometimes drop carcasses in the forest, or they are drug into the forest by bears and other wildlife. Salmon remains are left on the ground. The decaying fish enrich the soil with Nitrogen 15 which help trees grow taller faster and are more resilient to drought and parasites.

Photo of Rockport State Park by Marissa Bluestein

» Continue reading You’re Never Too Old to be a Junior Ranger

Jeff Geisen on Cascades River

Kulshan kids wing it

February 3rd, 2010 | Posted by in Institute News

What do Bald Eagles mean to you?


This was a question a group of 10 high school students from the International District Housing Alliance’s (IDHA) Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development program (WILD), and 30 students of almost all grades from Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program, discovered over the weekend. The North Cascades Institute, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, assisted the groups to help find some answers. The day of discovery began with a discussion of Bald Eagle biology ranging in topics from migration and diet, to anatomy and reproduction. The wonderful examples of Bald Eagle skulls, talons and eggs added to the excitement.


Bald Eagle roosting(Title) IDHA group discussing salmon (Above) A Bald Eagle roosting

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Trailside participants

Rocking the old growth

January 15th, 2010 | Posted by in Field Excursions

Sometimes we think in order to see new things that we need to travel to the furthest reaches of our earth.

I was reminded of how wrong this train of thought is last Saturday as I traveled 40 minutes downriver to Rockport State Park. Rockport is a small place, blink while driving across Highway 20 East to the Cascades and you might well miss it. However, being small and little known should not suggest that this State Park has nothing to offer. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a more easily accessible example of old growth forest anywhere in the Cascades.

Old GrowthThat which we do not speak of makes its presence known

» Continue reading Rocking the old growth