North Cascades Love: Highlighting the 50th Anniversary Photo Contest

This piece was written by Deven Vilar. Deven is an Outreach and Events Coordinator for North Cascades Institute.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the formation of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, a sprawling reserve that includes North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and all year we have been celebrating that milestone! There are so many people woven into the story of protecting this wild, rugged and beautiful place. While we honor the hard work and perseverance of the many people who have contributed to its protection, we wanted to celebrate the diverse community of people who care for and love this place now and look ahead to advocating for the park and the natural wonders of the ecosystem over the next 50 years!

With a goal of engaging the community of people that come to revel in the wildness of this place and building excitement around the anniversary, we launched the #NorthCascadesLove photo contest. July through October, we asked people to get out into the North Cascades, take a photo with a #NorthCascadesLove sign and tell us why they care for these lands! Since the beauty of the North Cascades lives past the boundaries of the National Park, we encouraged people to celebrate anywhere within the entire North Cascades Ecosystem—which spans from the inland waters of the Salish Sea to the Cascades Crest and east to the Okanogan highlands and Columbia Basin.

Fall 2018 Sucia Island Trip with Kevin Campion aboard The Orion

The positive response that poured from the people who came to spend a piece of their summer in the North Cascades was overwhelming! We collected photos and stories from hikers and backpackers, park rangers and park enthusiasts, and nature lovers and view-seekers! Something was evident, love of the North Cascades spreads far beyond the reaches of its ecosystem, with lasting impressions in the hearts and heads of people all the way from Alaska and Texas, to Arizona and Oregon!

I love the North Cascades because look at the water! And because science! I love that the Thunder Creek watershed has the largest concentration of glaciers in the lower 48. I love that those glaciers mean Thunder Creek has glacial flour suspended in the water. And I love that that gives Thunder Creek and Diablo Lake such a beautiful turquoise color. Because science. I love sharing the North Cascades with the people I love!

– @Rryan813


Given the opportunity every child is curious about the natural world. Loving nature comes ‘naturally.” I am so grateful to have the privilege of seeing what excites and interests the four young people I birthed.

– @Cindy.choudhry

Youth Leadership Adventure Students

I love the the North Cascades because it’s a richly diverse ecosystem of humans, creatures, and abiotic features. We all connect with nature in different ways and have so much to learn from one another.

— @irismautegibson

♥️ The North Cascades. It’s gorgeous up here. I love the water – the tranquility of it, the coldness of it, and especially the amazing color! I love the tall trees, the fresh smell of the air, and the crisp breeze. I also love supporting #NorthCascadesInstitute ‘s mission to “inspire and empower environmental stewardship for all”. It’s truly a heaven on Earth.

— @dengutiI

Youth Leadership Adventures students

The North Cascades is one of my favorite places to be! That I’m fortunate enough to be able to continue to explore new parts of this beautiful area is something I never take for granted. I love more things than I can say about the North Cascades. The water. The mountains. The trails. The views. The sunrises and the sunsets. But maybe most of all I love the memories that I have here of my friends and family; the trails, the views, the sunrises and sunsets that we saw together. Even when we are far apart, those North Cascades memories stay close.

– @Rmryan0530


We started our love affair with each other in the North Cascades 16 years ago and ever since we find new reasons to explore, share and indulge in this magical place! We love the wilderness because of its endless majesty, remoteness and diverse terrains. When we are playing in the alpine lakes (that our daughter loves to swim in fearlessly), taking in the views while hiking and sleeping under the stars, we feel revitalized, empowered and refreshed to come back to city life a little more humble, more brave and extremely grateful for the opportunity to call this region our home.

– @Skyemomma

What a beautiful collective of people, all passionate about our public wildlands! A huge thank you to everyone who joined us this summer and fall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this special place.  This year almost 940,000 people spent time recreating in the Park, just over 10,000 people came to learn at the Environmental Learning Center, and we collected over 300 photos of people sharing their appreciation for this wild place—one thing is very clear, we love the North Cascades! And now, on to the next 50 years of education, recreation and conservation in the North Cascades!

Youth Leadership Visitor Day 2018 Mazama Camp Photo by Kiley Barbero

Thanks for reading, and take a look at the #NorthCascadesLove photo gallery on Flickr.

Watercolor Instructor Nikki Frumkin of @drawntohighplaces poses near Liberty Bell on a field excursion during her September creative residency.

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