Wenatchee


The northeastern quadrant of the Alpine Lakes region is part of the Wenatchee River watershed in Chelan county. Pacific storms that keep the westside lush and green tend to lose strength as they move east, and this rainshadow effect gives the Wenatchee country a drier and more open aspect as one moves east away from the crest.

As one crosses over Stevens Pass, the country at first looks little different, but after eight or ten miles one will often see blue sky ahead, and as one descends into the Nason Creek valley about twenty miles east of the Pass, the country begins to look dramatically different as the clouds of the westside are left behind.

Forests

Ponderosa pine trees become abundant, and as one travels farther east one sees more open, grassy areas, and sagebrush begins to scent the air. Pine and fir clad ridges stretch for miles on the eastside of the Cascades. The great variations in slope aspect and soil moisture make eastside forests more diverse in comparison to the more uniform forests of the westside. Stately ponderosa pines grow at lower elevations. Although logging and fire suppression have taken a great toll on these woodlands, certain areas, particularly on south facing slopes, still retain some of the classic ponderosa look, with open, grassy groves of large, golden barked "yellowbelly" pines. Douglas firs usually grow alongside ponderosa pines, and extend to higher elevations. Although eastside Douglas firs do not grow as tall as westside specimens, they nonetheless often grow to great size, with their large, irregular spreading limbs giving them a very picturesque appearance. Above the ponderosa pines and Douglas firs are extensive forests of grand fir, with subalpine fir and lodgepole pine forests at still higher elevations. Alpine larch forests can be found at timberline in some areas. Flower filled forests of gnarled old larch trees of great individual character can be a delight to wander through, especially on clear fall days when larch needles turn to glowing gold in the sun.

Fish

Although they must climb fish ladders at a number of dams on the Columbia River, salmon and steelhead can both still be found in the Wenatchee River and its tributaries. Sockeye salmon spend a year or two in Lake Wenatchee before venturing downstream to negotiate the gauntlet of dams on the Columbia.

Wildlife

The more varied landscapes of the eastside, and the presence of grassy areas means that certain species of wildlife are more numerous, and more visible, than on the westside. Deer are abundant in most areas, and provide a food source for predators. Wolves have moved south from British Columbia back into the Methow watershed just north of the Wenatchee, and it is likely only a matter of time until they return here as well.