Update on the Methow Valley


Active Member
I spoke to a friend in the valley earlier today, and here is an update on the situation:

The valley to the North and West of Winthrop was completely spared from the fire and looks like nothing ever happened. Turn around 180 degrees and look South and East from Winthrop and almost everything is scorched between the area above the Winthrop golf course all the way to Pateros and across the lower river to Alta Lake and beyond towards Chelan. There are pockets here and there that were spared, but for the most part it has all burned. The locals who didn't loose their homes are getting by using generators to power essentials, but the outlook for the next few weeks is pretty bad until they get the power back on. Most or all of the stores, restaurants, bars, hotels, retailers, etc. have closed or are running with minimal services. The only stores fully open for business are Hanks in Twisp, who installed a full disaster relief power generation system a few years ago, and Carlton General who hauled in power generators from Auburn so they could continue to provide essential services. The impact on the business community of the valley in general will be pretty devastating. Having to close for several weeks in the height of the high season will surely put pressure on a lot of businesses that rely on this income to finance the balance of the year. My friend was booked solid for the next several weeks, and has had to cancel at least the next 14 days of trips. But he is grateful that he still has his house as the fire came within a mile of him before turning down valley on the wind.

I know that there are a couple of individuals known to the members of the board who lost their houses, and board members are rallying to raise funds for them, which is great. But the reality is that the casualties of the fire will run much deeper and the damage for many isn't as dramatic as a lost dwelling, but will still be devastating in the long run. I'm not sure anything formal has been or will be set up, but anything you can do to lend support for the entire community as future opportunities arise is also greatly appreciated.

Scott Salzer

previously micro brew
Chief - Thanks for the up date. Good points that you raise.

Trip - Totally agree. I quit donating to the Red Cross after Katrina when they were reported to diverting donated funds to other efforts. Let me know about the link. I can take trip east this weekend.

In the aftermath of the Carlton Complex fire - and it ain't over over here by a long shot - what will be the short term impact of the devastation on the river? With the riparian zone torched, how much will the water heat up? To temps that are lethal to trout? Should the WDFW implement an immediate closure? Willing to sacrifice a season for the good of the resource. What are your thoughts?


Active Member
I think that every single scenario you mentioned is either not necessary, doesn't exist or isn't a concern. The VAST majority of the Methow watershed did not burn with this fire. The Methow River watershed is 1,890 square miles. The Carlton Complex has burned 400 square miles some of which was not in the Methow watershed. For a frame of reference something like 50% of the Chewuch watershed burned in the past 10 years.

That said the Beaver creek drainage got pretty burnt out and that is/was good steelhead spawning habitat so that area will likely produce less, but that is a future impact rather than something that will occur this summer/fall.
JohnB, you are incorrect, there is plenty of science on this matter:

There is no doubt whatsoever that in the short run, the impact is negative; here are two good summaries:



So the debate should recognize the reality of short-term negative impacts and ask: "What is best for these stressed and threatened species?"

In the short term, of course.


Active Member
Pete I work in the fisheries field and have a solid grasp on the science behind this. There was little damage to the tall trees in the riparian area of the Methow itself, some of the tributaries yes, but the mainstem Methow no.

If you look at USGS streamflow gauges you can see that the Methow flow in Pateros is currently 480 cfs, in Winthrop it is 355 and the Twisp River is running at 65 cfs. What I'm getting at with this is that of the 480 cfs that is passing the gauge in Pateros 420 cfs is originating from above Twisp where there has been minimal burning. What I'm getting at with this is that very little of the flow of the Methow is coming from tributaries in the lower river that were really hammered by these fires, and with a mostly intact riparian area in the lower valley I do not think that stream temperature is going to spike.

I'm not saying that there are not impacts from fire on a watershed. I get that. I'm saying that your concerns about the water temperatures of the Methow this late summer and fall are unnecessary and that there is not any need to sacrifice a fishing season.
Good analysis, JohnB, and I thank you for sharing your perspective.

I certainly recognize that fire has been part of the ecosystem for millennia, and that wildfires can contribute to the health of the system with the addition of nutrients, woody debris, etc. Just concerned about the impact in the short term on threatened and endangered species who have enough on their plate as is.

Thanks for increasing our knowledge on the subject.