The rugged landscape of North Cascades National Park
is home to a unique collection of plants, animals, natural processes,
and cultural resources.
Here over 300 glaciers carve peaks that tower
above deep valleys dark with ancient forests. Old growth cedar, pine,
and fir contrast with subalpine meadows full of colorful flowers.
Animals as common as ravens and as rare as grizzly bears are at home in
the many different habitats of the range.
These treasures and more lie within the North
Cascades ecosystem. Assuring its health is the central goal of the North
Cascades National Park Service Complex, comprised of North Cascades
National Park and the adjacent Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National
Recreation Areas. The park complex is located in the heart of the North
Cascades ecosystem that extends from Snoqualmie Pass in Washington to
the Fraser River in British Columbia.
Straddling the crest of the Cascade
Mountains, the park encompasses a great variety of life zones.
Elevations soar from 400 feet to more than 9,000 feet above sea level.
Dramatic rainfall differences from 25 inches on the east side of the
range to well over 100 inches in some areas on the west result in
diverse vegetation and wildlife. The presence of more than 1,600
vascular plant species and an estimated 3,000 or more kinds of fungi
gives some idea of the diversity of life in this place.
To know if the park is being adequately protected,
the National Park Service must assess its ecological health. Park
scientists are learning to do this by monitoring "vital
signs." Ecosystem vital signs range from the growth versus
shrinkage of glaciers to the presence or absence of certain aquatic
insect larvae in the park's watersheds and trends in the populations of
particular birds and mammals. The presence and quantity of airborne
pollutants in glaciers and the lakes they feed can provide a measure of
the impact of distant human activities. These indicators and more will
allow scientists to determine the overall health of the park's ecosystem
and which way it is headed.
The benefits that people receive from North
Cascades as a protected area are many: clean air and water, spawning
areas for salmon, opportunities for challenge, relaxation, and
inspiration, and more. Measuring the vital signs of ecosystem health and
then taking action as needed to protect park resources will ensure that
these benefits continue.
Be a steward!|
Help preserve our Natural Heritage:
- Tread lightly on the land
and leave no trace.
- Respect the wilderness,
wildlife and fellow visitors.
- Be aware of and avoid