Lake Whatcom Watershed Reconveyance Park & Recreation Survey
The purpose of this document is to familiarize the reader with the lands in the Lake Whatcom Watershed being considered for reconveyance from Washington State D.N.R. to Whatcom County Parks and Recreation. Outlined within this document will be the characteristics, attributes, roads, and existing uses of several distinct areas within two large blocks ofland. One block lies to the south west of Lake Whatcom on Lookout Mountain, the other lies to the east of Lake Whatcom on Stewart Mountain.
This report will be limited in scope to the factors that have a bearing on the development and maintenance of a passive use, low environmental impact park and recreation area. The uses being considered for this park and recreation area include: hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife viewing, backpacking, wildemess camping, photography, and horseback riding.
Because the exact boundaries of the areas to be reconveyed are not yet determined, this report may describe lands that will not be reconveyed.
A map has been developed that shows the suggested locations of park and recreational features described in this report.
Terrain: Lookout Mt. runs from the Skagit County line near Cain and Squires Lakes north for about five miles when it meets the somewhat lower mountain known as Galbraith Mountain. Beaver Creek, flowing from the crest of Lookout Mt. north to Lake Louise Rd. provides a good northem boundary for Lookout Mt. Its highest elevation is 2677 ft. with a ridgeline that remains above 2200' ft. for almost two miles. The lands proposed for reconveyance lie mostly on the eastem side of the mountain. The slopes are generally very steep and deeply cut by creek drainages. Only the Beaver Creek areas on the northern most pari of Lookout Mt. offer moderate slopes well suited for low impact trail building. Trail construction on the southern part of the mountain will be most practical near ridge lines and on old logging road beds.
Forest: Lookout Mt. has been logged in its entirety over the years. Presently, the standing timber exists in several states of regrowth with little species diversity and very little understory. The oldest and largest trees grow in the area bordering Galbraith Mt. and the area above Squires and Cain Lakes.
Viewscape: The ridge line of Lookout Mt. affords breathtaking views of the Cascade Mountains and North Puget Sound. The snowy summits ofMt. Baker and the Twin Sisters are displayed in awesome splendor and the vivid green landscapes of the Skagit Flats, the steep rocky profiles of the Chuckanut Mountains, and the vast seascapes of the San Juan Islands satiate the eye with beauty. The vistas almost overwhelm the viewer on this panoramic mountain top as the cobalt blue waters of Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish glitter vibrantly up from each side of Lookout Mt.
Wildlife: Tracks, scat and other sign indicate that all species of wildlife found in Whatcom County exist in abundance on Lookout Mt.
Roads: There are three major gravel roads systems within the Lookout Mt. reconveyance area. The most extensive originates at Lake Louise Rd. south of the old Sudden Valley campground. It has three segments totaling about 6.5 miles. Two of these segments serve radio towers and receive regular use. The most northerly segment was used for logging within the past ten years and now only receives occasional use. All three segments are in very good shape and have had new culverts installed recently.
A second gravel road originates at the end of a residential development road in south Sudden Valley and runs just over one mile up to a radio tower between Austin Creek and South Lake Whatcom. It receives regular use and is in very good repair.
A third road originates near the Cain Lake boat launch. It is about one mile in length and is used for logging. It receives only occasional use and does not appear to have new culverts in place.
Existing Recreation: Informal hiking, mountain biking and ATV use is evident on the proposed reconveyance areas on Lookout Mt. Well wom mountain biking trails exist adjacent to Galbraith Mt. to the north and an ATV trail extends from the end of the logging road near Cain Lake up to the summit ridge. Recreationalists appear to be using the existing roads and abandoned roads throughout the area and fire rings exist at several unofficial camps located on former log landings.
Proposed Park and Recreational Development: Trails will be a major component of the recreational development in this plan. Trails are envisioned to be 4' feet in width have a gradient of no more thanl 0% whenever possible. In many cases trails will be located on old logging road beds. Backcountry campsites will be located on former log landings above one thousand feet of elevation and improvements will be limited to those structures that will concentrate impacts in a small area, such as fire rings and raised tent pads. Scenic overlooks and picnic areas will generally include a picnic table. Many of the needed parking areas and restroom facilities already exist on Whatcom County Park lands near Lake Whatcom. New parking areas will follow all local, state and federal land disturbance guidelines.
1. Beaver Creek Area: This area lies south of Galbraith Mt. and north of Austin Creek and includes the area know as the Olsen Estate which is jointly managed by Whatcom County Parks and City of Bellingham Public Works. It would encompass 2 major hiking loop trails and a connector trail extending northwest toward Bellingham totaling approximately 8 miles of trail. This trail loop affords the user stellar panoramic views, wildlife viewing and birding, and includes a backcountry camp 2000'. The camp site can be accessed by pick-up truck for maintenance.
Several good level places within the Olsen Estate property and within forests bordering Galbraith Mt. lend themselves well to picnic areas. Beaver Creek offers possibilities for fishing in its many pools and has a picturesque twelve foot high waterfall within view of the proposed trail.
Parking for this area will be located at the base of the radio tower access road.
2. North Lookout Ridge Trail: This 3 mile trail would run from the backcountry camp site in the Beaver Creek Area south for two miles along the Lookout Mt. Ridge to the vicinity of the southernmost radio tower where it connects to the Austin Creek Trail and the South Lookout Ridge Trail. Incredible views and excellent birding opportunities will compliment this hiking trail.
3. Austin Creek Trail: A neighborhood access for this 4.5 mile trail would originate at a cul-de-sac at the end of Tumbling Water Lane. A second public access could originate from the lower portion of the Beaver Creek loop trail. The suggested route follows an old road bed that gently rises to a scenic fishing and picnic spot on Austin Creek. The trail crosses the creek here and continues along the eastern bank of Austin Creek for about a half mile before it switch-backs up the heavily timbered slope. At about fourteen hundred feet of elevation the trail gains the ridge upon which the most easterly radio tower road is located. The trail then contours south at an easy grade through established fir forests until it turns west to intersect the Lookout Ridge Trails.
4. South Lookout Trail: This 3 mile trail begins at the Cain Lake public boat launch near the Skagit County line on Camp 2 Road. A logging road opposite the boat launch parking area climbs up to the southern ridge of Lookout Mt. The trail would utilize the road for trail bed and then begin following the ridge line. At this point a spur trail to Squires Lake Park could provide hiking access from the Glenhaven Lakes community to Squires Lake. Along this route a stand of several old-growth Cedar and Douglas Fir trees still grow. Wonderful views, rocky outcroppings and many places to locate a picnic area exist as the trail follows the ridge to a back-country campsite at an elevation of two thousand, two hundred feet, where it meets the Austin Creek Trail and North Lookout Trail.
5. Camp 2 Road: A short trail section would create a connection between the Glenhaven Lakes community and the South Lake Whatcom Park for walkers and cyclists. Existing gravel roads beginning near Cain Lake come within a few hundred yards of South Lake Whatcom Park.
Terrain: Carpenter Creek, running along Y Road, provides a northern boundary for 3060 ft. Stewart Mt. It lies between Lake Whatcom on the west and Acme Valley on the east, with its southern slopes reaching Anderson Creek near Wickersham, W A. The area proposed for reconveyance is located on the western side of the mountain between the Smith Creek watershed and the Blue Canyon area. This is very rugged country with canyon like drainages and steep formidable slopes. Amazingly, logging roads were pushed into virtually every drainage and along practically every ridge in this area. Constructing recreational trails on the old logging road cuts will most likely be the most practical and lowest impact approach.
Forest: Much of the reconveyance land observed is forested with mature second growth. Some of the stands of Douglas Fir and Cedar appear to be more than one hundred years old with a diverse and stratified understory. Younger forests exist in areas close to the Wickersham Truck Route and the ridgeline of Stewart Mt.
Viewscape: Many excellent scenic view areas can be located along abandon logging roads traversing the steep rocky hillsides of the Smith Creek drainage. In other areas recent clear cuts have opened up sweeping panoramas of Lake Whatcom, and the Northern Puget Sound area.
Wildlife: Tracks, scat and other sign indicate that all species of wildlife found in Whatcom County exist in abundance on Lookout Mt.
Roads: The major vehicle access for the area proposed for reconveyance is the well established gravel road known as the Wickersham Truck Route. It begins above the upper parking in Lake Whatcom Park off North Shore Rd. and extends south along the ridge of Stewart Mt. until it descends into the Acme Valley, where it intersects Hwy. 9 near Doran Rd. Many logging roads and power line tower roads extend from the Wickersham Truck Route. The most important spur runs south from a point above the Jones Creek drainage and continues north along the summit ridge of Stewart Mt. until it descends to Y road north of Olsen Creek. From this summit ridge road the two back country camp sites on the Middle Fork Trail can be accessed.
Another important road begins near the old Y road dump and runs east along the main stem of Olsen Creek. Hikers and backcountry horse riders use this road to access informal trails north of Olsen Creek. A fork in the road turns south to a steel decked bridge that crosses Olsen Creek for hiking and equestrian access to old logging roads and informal trails that eventually connect to the Smith Creek drainage.
Existing Recreation: The Hertz Trail, located on the shore of Lake Whatcom in Lake Whatcom Park is Whatcom County Parks and Recreation's most heavily used trail. Other informal trails extend from the Hertz Trail parking lot following old logging roads up to points along the Wickersham Truck Route and the BPA power line R.O.W.
Hikers and backcountry horse riders use the trail head at the old Y road dump extensively. There are many miles of informal trail on either side of Olsen Creek and flagging has been observed that is believed to be newly planned, unofficial, horse trails.
Off road vehicle routes are very evident along the Wickersham Truck Route. These motorcycles, ATVs and jeeps are accessing Stewart Mt. from Y road, North Lake Whatcom Park and Hwy 9.
Proposed Park and Recreational Development: Trails will be a major component of the recreational development in this plan. Trails are envisioned to be 4' feet in width have a gradient of no more than 10% whenever possible. In many cases trails will be located on old logging road beds. Backcountry campsites will be located on former log landings above one thousand feet of elevation and improvements will be limited to those structures that will concentrate impacts in a small area, such as fire rings and raised tent pads. Scenic overlooks and picnic areas will generally include a picnic table. Many of the needed parking areas and restroom facilities already exist on Whatcom County Park lands near Lake Whatcom. New parking areas will follow all local, state and federal land disturbance guidelines.
1. Smith Creek - North Fork Loop Trail: Beginning at Lake Whatcom Park this 3.5 mile trail will cross under the power lines and run n011h utilizing old logging roads where the grade is gentle enough, until it reaches the Sunnyside Trail and North Shore Trail. At this intersection the trail bears east along an old logging road bed for almost a mile, then turns south into steeper terrain where the trail will contour down and return to Lake Whatcom Park.
2. Smith Creek - Middle Fork Loop Trail: This 7 mile loop trail will probably be the premier hiking experience in Western Whatcom County. Sharing the easterly leg of the North Fork Loop, the trail rises up through rugged terrain and dense forest until it reaches a recent clear cut. On an old log landing where a back country campsite will be located, remarkable views of the San Juan Island and the Canadian Costal Mountains are available. The trail then follows existing logging road (to be used for campsite maintenance only) for 2 miles as it winds south along an exposed ridgeline to another back country campsite with breathtaking
views. Here the trail descends from the ridge along an old road bed, contouring down to a crossing over the main stem of Smith Creek and follows another old road bed through some of the oldest forest observed on Stewart Mt. The trail comes to an end in Lake Whatcom Park.
3. Smith Creek - South Fork Loop Trail: This 7 mile loop trail begins at Lake Whatcom Park and shares a segment of the middle fork trail along the main channel of Smith Creek. Here it crosses the south fork of Smith Creek and begins to rise along old road beds. When the trail reaches its maximum elevation of 2400' the trail contours south where it intersects another old road bed that leads it west until it reaches the Wickersham Truck Route. The trail begins to generally parallel the truck route and power line until it crosses the truck route and traverses northwest above Lake Whatcom. The trail comes to an end in Lake Whatcom Park.
4. Upper Hertz Trail: Two miles south on the Hertz Trail old logging roads climb up to a 75 foot water fall and beautiful views of Lake Whatcom. Connecting old logging roads leading back to Lake Whatcom Park will create an exiting 2 mile addition to Whatcom County Park's favorite trail.
5. Jones Creek Trail: Beginning near the intersection of Rothenbuhler Rd. and Hwy 9 in Acme, this 5 mile trail uses old logging roads to connect Acme Valley to the South Fork Loop Trail.
6. Olsen Creek Trail: This is a well used but informal 3 mile trail that would be upgraded to connect the trail head at the old Y Road dump to the Smith Creek Loop Trails.
7. Backcountry Horsemen's Trail: An informal 1.5 mile trail follows old logging roads and would be upgraded to connect the trailhead at the old Y Road dump to logging roads along the summit ridge of Stewart Mt.
8. Sunnyside Trail: A 1 mile trail could be built to connect the North Fork Loop to Sunnyside Landing Park.
9. North Shore Trail: An old staging area and logging road could be utilized to create a parking area and 1 mile trail that would connect North Shore Rd. to the North Fork Loop Trail.