North Cascades National Park Wetlands

Amidst the high peaks, deep forests and cold rivers for which the park is renowned wetlands, marshes and swamps may be the last thing people think of when they visit. Although they are not the most prominent aspects of the park ecosystem, they are one of the most important. They prepare the ground from which, in time, will spring forth an ancient forest. Wetlands also provide perfect habitat for many amphibians, invertebrates and aquatic plants.

Some of the most outstanding wetlands in the park are nestled along the lower stretches of the Chilliwack River. The area is a magnificent expanse of relatively inaccessible and pristine wilderness, which has been recommended for designation as a Research Natural Area. Here, near the Canadian border, is located one of the largest wetlands in the park, boasting forested, scrub/shrub, emergent and open water wetlands. As with all ecosystems, this environment is dependent on the plants and creatures that dwell there.

Much of the wetland is maintained by a colony of beavers that dam the streams with freshly cut alder boughs, stream debris and packed mud. The standing water and the animal and plant activity that occurs within it saturate the ground with nutrients preparing it for the forests of future generations. The wetland is dependent on the beaver colony just as the beaver colony is dependent on the wetland and future old-growth forests are dependent on them both. The wetland environment provides us with yet another example of how all things in nature are interconnected, even the wetlands that so often go overlooked.

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