South Fork Nooksack Description
The headwaters of the South Fork lie on the eastern slopes of the Twin Sisters in Whatcom County. From river mile (RM) 34.1 to 16.5, the South Fork Nooksack River flows south and west through Skagit County, before turning north and entering the Acme Valley in Whatcom County.
Land use history
Land use practices in the watershed influence the distribution and abundance of vegetation. Logging has historically been the most significant land use and commercial activity in the South Fork watershed since European settlement in the 1880s (Whatcom County 1990). Euro-Americans began settling in the Whatcom County area in the 1850s, attracted by high quality timber coupled with an easy access to water transportation, and moved into the South Fork watershed in the 1880s (Whatcom County Planning and Development Services Dept. 1997). By the time of the General Land Office Surveys in the mid-1880s, much of the South Fork watershed was still undeveloped with small openings in the forest where homesteads were located. By the turn of the century, timber harvest had begun in earnest in the South Fork valley with large cedars cleared from local homesteads fueling the shingle mills in the Acme Valley. The first logging camp in the area began operation in 1905 just downstream of the Saxon Bridge and wood was transported by rail from the valley (Royer 1982). Bloedel-Donovan was to eventually build over fifty miles of railroad in this Saxon-Nooksack river valley region between 1920 and 1937 (Thompson 1989). The Saxon area was operated by Bloedel-Donovan until 1940, when the accessible timber was exhausted. Following the end of railroad logging, some of the railroad grades were reconstructed into truck roads. These roads extended beyond the end of the rail lines into steeper and higher elevation portions of the basin. By the 1970s, virtually all of the upper South Fork watershed had become accessible by forest roads via Lyman Pass from the Skagit River. Forest practice rules developed in the 1970s, with significant improvements in resource protection in the 1990s, have strengthened the protection of fisheries resources through better protecting watershed drainages by establishing riparian buffers along watercourses, managing land uses on unstable slopes, and implementing monitoring guidelines for observation of conditions.