Cascade, Idaho and Lake Cascade

Cascade is located high in the mountains of rural Idaho, approximately one hundred miles from the closest college or laboratory facility.  The community’s key feature is a seventeen-mile long, four-mile-wide man-made, draw-down reservoir.  This reservoir is a central component to Cascade’s community success, recreation, and economic survival.  Therefore, this reservoir has a large importance to all members of the community.  Unfortunately, as of the summer of 1993, signs surrounding Cascade Reservoir read, “The smell may cause nausea and/ or severe headaches, the green slime is unpleasant to touch and may cause a red, irritating rash.  Swimming may bring contact with decomposing animal carcasses.  Note: 22 cattle recently perished from ingesting this water.  Proceed at your own risk.”  The message couldn’t have been any more disturbing or disheartening to tourists had it read, “This Reservoir is completely disgusting and detrimental to your health.”  Following the closure of the local sawmill, Cascade had to convert to a tourist/recreation-based economy in order to survive.  The reservoir requires ecological balance to support wildlife, irrigation, and human recreation.  The advanced biology class at Cascade High School works with members of the community to achieve this ecological balance.



The Advanced Biology Class

The advanced biology class, offered to juniors and seniors attending Cascade High School, began several years ago with a focus on solving water quality problems at Lake Cascade, which is a central component of Cascade’s economic health.  The class is an opportunity to set aside schoolbooks and the practice of common subjects (math, art, science, English, speech, government, technology), and apply the skills we’ve learned by working with the community.  Students identify a potential solution to a problem concerning Lake Cascade, then implement the solution by writing grants for funding and working on the project throughout the school year.  The class is a significant contributor to the restoration of the reservoir, and students know that their presence in the town is essential. 

Students have forced the community to recognize local water quality problems and are challenging government officials to address environmental issues as a part of their political agendas—if the condition of the reservoir doesn’t improve, Cascade’s tourist-based economy will fail.


Crown Point Trail

A team of advanced biology students was successful in reserving a section of an abandoned railroad line running along the reservoir as a conservation open space and recreational walking trail.  Students petitioned to community members, handed out brochures, and created an informational sign identifying the benefits of a non-motorized trail.  The students took opinion surveys asking the public to decide the outcome of the trail; 460 surveys were filled out, only 30 said they wanted motorized vehicles on the trail.  Thus, the trail was maintained and converted into a recreational, non-motorized trail.

During the school year of 2002-2003, the Crown Point Trail (CPT) group has had the privilege of working with Idaho State Parks and Recreation.  The trail is on state land so in order to do anything, such as installing interpretive signs and benches we need the permission of State Parks and Rec.  Through extensive research the CPT group has selected a bench design that will hold up to the possibilities of extensive vandalism and severe weathering.  The first bench built (Pictured below) has already been installed at Fischer Pond, located by the North Fork Payette River that flows through Cascade.  Between the present time and next fall we plan to have a minimum of four benches along the 2.7 mile stretch of Crown Point Trail, and at least one more at Fischer Pond.

With the help of State Parks and Rec. we’ve been able to create three of the four interpretive signs that they graciously funded for the trail.  The signs contained information on foxes, animal tracks, and bats.  The fourth sign was designed by a member of the bureau and it explained the lives of ospreys in Long Valley.


Monarch Butterflies

            A portion of the CPT group has branched off and dedicated the end of this school year to creating a butterfly garden at Fischer Pond.  Through a grant from the Seattle-based YMCA Monarch Migration Project West 2003, we were able to purchase milkweed and nectar plants to help repopulate monarch butterflies in this area.


Future Plans

The advanced biology Crown Point Trail Group has identified a series of potential goals to implement on the Crown Point Trail during future years.  These goals include enhancing wildlife, improving the overall quality of the trail, and providing the public with educational information about wildlife and the trail.

Š      Enhancing wildlife: The class intends to enhance wildlife through installing bat boxes and swallow habitats along the trail to achieve biological insect control.  We would also like to place deer feeders at locations along the trail.

Š      Improving the overall quality of the trail: At present the trail is rough, muddy, and a source of erosion and nutrient loading to Lake Cascade.  Rehabilitation, therefore, is a prime objective of this project.  Planting trees, shrubs, and grasses are proposed for various sites.  We would also like to make the trail more easily accessible for the handicapped, relocate the trail head the rock query sight, and improve the campground entrance gate.

Š      Providing the public with education information about wildlife and the trail: we would like to place benches and wildlife interpretive signs at marked locations, create a walk-in campground, and develop a series of smaller trails around the main trail, complete with interpretive signs.