It’s getting late and you are driving up highway 141 past Wet Planet watching the last rays of sun slide across the peak of Mt Adams. All of the sudden you see something move out of the corner of your eye. You turn to look. Ahead of you is a human-like shape eating blackberries by the side of the road. At first you don’t think too much of it, probably just some local or raft guide out for a late night snack. When working and living around so many rafting companies, one becomes used to being surrounded by strong, hairy, and fairly smelly humans. As you get closer, you start to notice how tall the figure is, how hairy, and how it looks not quite human. As you get even closer, the figure runs into the bushes, across a railroad bridge spanning the river, and disappears into the dark.
It may be hard for you to admit but, just as many others in Skamania County and the surrounding area; you may have just encountered the Sasquatch! Whether you believe in the creature or not, Skamania County (stretching from White Salmon to Stevenson and north through most of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge) has been legally designated as a country wide Sasquatch refuge. Yes, you heard that right, whether you refer to the species as Sasquatch, Big Foot, or Yeti, it is illegal to shoot or kill one of these ape-like creatures within Skamania County.
Let’s take a step back to April 1st, 1969 (stick with me here, I promise this isn’t an April Fool’s joke). Over the past few years, there have been multiple alleged sightings of a large, hairy, ape-like creature all across the county. Glory hunters from across the nation armed with guns are flooding in and gun shots shatter the quiet night. Skamania officials call an emergency meeting and decide they need to take action to protect the possible existence of the creature, in addition to their own local residents. It is not clear from county ordinance 69-01 if the board of commissioners truly believed in the creature, or if they were simply trying to protect the locals from wanton gunfire. No matter the end goal, the punishment for the slaying of a Sasquatch was set at $10,000 fine and five years in jail.
This law held until April 1984 when the ordinance came up for review. In the intervening years there had been many more sightings of large, hairy creatures throughout the county and stories of strange noises in the night. The combination of legend, first hand accounts, and scientific investigation led to a skyrocketing amount of interest in the being. The new ordinance in 1984 revoked the earlier punishment and instead designated the Great Hairy Ape as an endangered species. To protect the species, a county-wide refuge was also established. For all of those poachers out there who think they can still get away with bagging one of these amazing creatures by pleading insanity, watch out! The new ordinance also eliminated insanity as a plausible defense against the crime of killing a Sasquatch.
Whether you are a legend seeker, scientist, or raft guide, Skamania County and the White Salmon area provide something for all of us, so long as we look hard and believe. Next time you are rafting on the White Salmon River keep an eye out, maybe Sasquatch likes rafting too! You might just turn around above Husum Falls and discover that the hairy creature you thought was your raft guide is actually Big Foot in disguise.
Can you distinguish the Wet Planet raft guide from Sasquatch?
Author Carson Lyness‘s favorite thing about kayaking is being able to flip over and talk to the Salmon. She is part of the Wet Planet base staff, marketing team, and an all-star kayak instructor.