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Seattle City Light, US Forest Service Open New Day-Use Overlook Areas at Boundary Reservoir

Seattle City Light and the United States Forest Service (USFS) had the pleasure of hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 13 to officially welcome visitors to two new overlook areas in northern Pend Oreille County. The Peewee Falls and Riverside Canyon overlooks are located on the east side of the Boundary Reservoir, which is home to City Light’s Boundary Dam Hydroelectric Project.

Chris Townsend (City Light) and Carin Vadala (USFS) cut the ribbon and open the outlooks to the public.

The Boundary Project provides visitors from across the region with essential outdoor recreation opportunities. At the event, Chris Townsend, City Light Director of Natural Resources and Hydro Licensing, and Carin Vadala, District Ranger at Newport Sullivan Lake for the USFS, delivered remarks on the history of Boundary dam, its operating license, and the mitigation and recreation efforts in the area.

Townsend began with a land acknowledgment, noting how the Kalispel Tribe of Indians have long served as stewards of the area and the value they bring to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing discussions for hydroelectric operations:

“For any hydro operation, whether it be relicensing or license implementation, I believe that the Tribes are the most important partners. They’re at the center of the stakeholders that need to be coordinated and worked with very closely. They are the story holders of the landscape and … we want to make sure that we honor the stories and avoid important cultural and historic sites. So, thank you to the Kalispel Tribe for hosting us on the landscape here at this overlook site and at our hydro facility.”

The new outlooks not only provide breathtaking views of the landscape but also make these views more accessible to the public. Each location features new restroom facilities, picnic tables, ample parking, and gravel walking trails with easy grades. The outlook platforms are spacious and have benches so you can sit and enjoy the sights.

The view from Peewee Falls Overlook shows the waterfall and Hooknose Mountain in the background.

“There really wasn’t the ability to get here unless you walked the road, which was about a mile and a half through the surrounding vegetation, up until about two years ago. So, it took a lot of vision from a couple of retired employees who are here, Seattle City Light, the Bureau of Land Management, the Kalispel Tribe, and a lot of other partners to come together at the table and decide on these recreational opportunities that we wanted in northern Pend Oreille County,” said Vadala.

The view from the Riverside Canyon Overlook shows the mighty Pend Oreille River.

City Light is proud to help enhance natural and cultural resources and expand recreational opportunities so everyone can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Boundary Reservoir. Townsend made note that while Seattle and surrounding communities benefit from the hydroelectric power of Boundary, we also need to give back to the area it comes from:

“We recognize in the city of Seattle that we depend on areas like this for resources to keep our city vibrant and healthy. So, it’s only right that we bring value back to the local area, and we do that largely in this license through the implementation of recreation opportunities and habitat restoration.”

In the first 10 years of the current FERC license, City Light has implemented new programs and measures to provide new and enhanced recreation opportunities within the Boundary Project area:

  • Added new boat-in campsites, overlook areas, and hiking trails.
  • Improved watershed habitat and viability by removing Mill Pond dam and managing invasive species and weeds.
  • Renovated resources at the Forebay Recreation Area, Metaline Park and Mill Pond campgrounds.
Townsend and Vadala break ground on the Salmo Passage Trail.

In the next few years, more improvements are forthcoming, including renovated interpretive exhibits at Vista House, renovations at Metaline Falls Portage Park, and the completion of the eastside trail that links the two new overlooks, which has been officially named słqqax̣s č̓ čax̣íwłkʷ (the Salmo Passage Trail) in consultation with the Kalispel Tribe:

“We asked the Tribe to help us name the trail. We got to sit here last year and learn about some of the stories, how they used the land, how they would hike through the canyon to get up to Salmo River in Canada to go fishing and have their fish camp up there for the year. So, officially, the new trail is going to be named the Salmo Passage Trail, and it’ll be open next year,” said Vadala.

The completion of the two new overlooks at Peewee Falls and Riverside Canyon represent one of the final recreation-related requirements under the most recent FERC license. City Light is grateful for local community support and the continued opportunity to invest in this community and wider region, and we are thrilled to welcome the public to enjoy these sites.