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Okanogan National Forest

Okanogan National Forest
IUCN category VI (protected area with sustainable use of natural resources)
Okanogan Valley from Maple Pass
Map showing the location of Okanogan National Forest
Location in the United States
Location Okanogan County, Washington
Nearest city Omak, WA
Area 1,499,023 acres (6,066.33 km2)[1]
Established July 1, 1911[2]
Visitors 397,000 (in 2005)
Governing body United States Forest Service
The North Cascades from the northern Okanogan Valley

The Okanogan National Forest is a U.S. National Forest located in Okanogan County in north-central Washington, United States.

The 1,499,013-acre (2,342.208 sq mi; 6,066.29 km2) forest is bordered on the north by British Columbia, on the east by Colville National Forest, on the south by the divide between the Methow and the StehekinLake Chelan valleys, and on the west by North Cascades National Park. The closest significant communities are Omak and Okanogan. Managed by the United States Forest Service together with Wenatchee National Forest, its headquarters are in Wenatchee. There are local ranger district offices located in Tonasket and Winthrop. It is the second-largest national forest (after the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho) that is contained entirely within one county and largest of which in Washington.

Most of the Pasayten Wilderness (excluding its westernmost part, which lies in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest), and the northeast portion (about 63%)[3] of Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness are part of the forest, with the balance lying in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

The western part of the forest is wetter than the dry and less temperate east. The vegetation varies similarly, from the western boreal forest, to the eastern high-elevation steppe. A 1993 Forest Service study estimated that the extent of old growth in the forest was 316,000 acres (128,000 ha),[4] a majority of which was lodgepole pine forests. Wildfires are not uncommon in the Okanogan National Forest. Notable fires include the 2006 Tripod Complex, the 2012 Okanogan Complex, and the 2014 Carlton Complex fires.

The Okanogan National Forest was established on July 1, 1911, from a portion of the Chelan National Forest. On July 1, 1921, the entire forest was transferred back to the Chelan National Forest, but on March 23, 1955, the transfer was reverted.[2]


The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 gave the President the authority to establish forest reserves for the United States Department of the Interior.[5] After passage of the Transfer Act of 1905, forest reserves became part of the United States Department of Agriculture in the newly created United States Forest Service.[6][7] The Chelan National Forest was established by the Forest Service on July 1, 1908, from 2,492,500 acres (1,008,700 ha) from a portion of the Washington National Forest, and was named after the city of Chelan, where its headquarters were. The forest's initial area of 1,732,820 acres (701,250 ha) extended from the northern Okanogan River near the Canada–United States border to divide the Lake Chelan and Entiat watersheds to the southern Cascade Crest.[8] On July 1, 1911, the forest partly transformed into Okanogan National Forest. However, Chelan National Forest was still existent, then only occupying the drainage basin of Lake Chelan and Entiat.[9]

The Conconully, Loomis, Squaw Creek, Sweat Creek, Twisp and Winthrop ranger districts were formed between 1911 and 1915.[6] On July 1, 1921, the entire forest reunited back into the Chelan National Forest, and the term Okanogan was discontinued.[9] Subsequently, another ranger district was established, the Chelan Ranger District. Portions of the Loomis Ranger District, along with the Sweat Creek Ranger District, absorbed to become the Loomis State Forest, later abandoned. The forest's ranger area underwent a number of smaller changes until the mid-1940s. The Squaw Creek Ranger District was absorbed by the Twisp Ranger District in the early 1930s, while the Forest Service Monument 83 lookout was constructed in neighboring British Columbia as an accident. The Pasayten Ranger District was later created from a portion of the Winthrop Ranger District, and the Conconully Ranger District became the Okanogan Ranger District.[6] The western part of the Colville National Forest transferred into the Chelan National Forest in 1943. On March 23, 1955, Chelan National Forest again became the Okanogan National Forest, then headquartered in the city of Okanogan. As per the change, the rename of the Conconully Ranger District was reverted.[9]

In 1968, the Pasayten Wilderness was established, introducing over 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) to the forest.[6] The United States Congress designated almost 65 percent of the forest's area as the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System around 1984, upon land formerly occupied by the former Chelan Division of the Washington Forest Reserve.[10] The Okanogan National Forest was administratively combined with the Wenatchee National Forest in 2000, although the boundaries for each forest remained unchanged, and in 2007, it administratively became known as the Okanogan–Wenatchee National Forest.[6]

360° panorama near the summit of Goat Peak in the Okanogan National Forest. Photographed on a September afternoon, this photo includes sweeping views of the Methow Valley and the greater Cascade Range including glaciated Silver Star Mountain. High ice clouds create sun dogs on either side of the sun. Goat Peak Lookout is prominent on the righthand side.


  1. ^ "Land Areas of the National Forest System" (PDF). United States Forest Service. January 2012. Retrieved June 30, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Davis, Richard C., ed. (1983). "Appendix I. National Forests of the United States" (PDF). Encyclopedia of American Forest and Conservation History, Volume 2. MacMillan Publishing Company for the Forest History Society. pp. 743–788. 
  3. ^ Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness acreage breakdown,
  4. ^ Bolsinger, Charles L.; Waddell, Karen L. (1993), Area of old-growth forests in California, Oregon, and Washington (PDF), United States Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Resource Bulletin PNW-RB-197 
  5. ^ Steen, Harold K. (May 1, 1991). "Reserve Act and Congress: Passage of the 1981 Act". The Beginning of the National Forest System.  
  6. ^ a b c d e "Okanogan–Wenatchee National Forest – A Brief History". United States Forest Service. 2008. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ "The U.S. Forest Service – An Overview". United States Forest Service. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  8. ^ "The National Forests of the United States".  
  9. ^ a b c "United States Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6)".  
  10. ^ "Wilderness Evaluation – Sawtooth, 608027" (PDF). United States Forest Service. 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 

External links

  • websiteOkanogan National ForestOfficial
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