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Stehekin’s Golden West Visitor Center to remain closed for summer

Staffing, funding challenges in remote community led to closure

The Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin will remain closed for the summer.
The Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin will remain closed for the summer. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

The Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin, a small community known for its remote location within North Cascades National Park, will remain closed this summer due to staffing and funding shortages, the National Park Service announced on Tuesday, March 19.

Stehekin, which is only accessible via boat, plane or a long hike, is located in Chelan County at the northwest end of Lake Chelan, just south of the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. There are no roads leading in or out of the community. 

Transportation to and from the community will not be affected by this change.

“The Stehekin area is an important part of the park for both staff and visitors,” said Don Striker, North Cascades National Park superintendent in a press release. “However, it receives significantly fewer visitors than other sections of the park. Budget constraints and challenges in hiring force us to focus limited resources where they can do the most good for the most visitors.”

The park’s staff has decreased by 28% in the last decade due to appropriated budgets “not keeping up with inflation,” according to the release, and it has been difficult to attract and retain permanent and seasonal employees. 

In that same period, North Cascades National Park visitation has increased by 36% overall, while Stehekin and the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area visitation numbers have remained the same. 

The North Cascades Visitor Center, located near the community of Newhalem in the western foothills of the North Cascades, received 10 times more visitors than the Golden West Visitor Center from 2021–23.

“Park managers have a duty to strategically implement resources where they make the most sense,” Striker said. “We are stewards of these exceptional national public lands, and we take that mission seriously. While we wish a cadre of rangers could staff all of our remote sites, unfortunately it is simply not realistic in today’s fiscal climate.”

The Golden West Visitor Center features a special program that exhibits work by local artists in the Stehekin community, maps, an information desk and history of the area, among other offerings, according to the NPS website.

While the building will be closed for the summer, essential services such as maintenance of campgrounds, restrooms and picnic areas will be prioritized. Firefighting and emergency staff will also continue “to rotate through and respond to this area of the park when needed,” the release stated.

Connor J. Benintendi is CDN’s sports editor; reach him at; 360-922-3090 ext. 104.

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