Douglas Fir Campground


Every day Seasonal


Douglas Fir Campground is the first of the three US Forest Service campgrounds that are encountered while driving up the Mt. Baker Highway (see Excelsior Group Campground and Silver Fir Campground articles on this website). All three campgrounds are only seasonally open, typically from late May until late September. While all are located adjacent to the North Fork of the Nooksack River, Douglas Fir Campground offers the best access for larger vehicles, has the most campsites and is usually attended by a knowledgeable campground host when open.

The 30 camp sites are spaced along a loop drive paralleling the river, offering choices of riverside or forest locations. While some sites may be reserved in advance others are retained for use on a first-come-basis. The entire area is thickly forested but has a more spacious feel due to the opening in the canopy afforded by the river running along the entire length of the campground. Located at the river’s edge is an historic picnic shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and still well appreciated on rainy days.

The predominant tree found in the park, some approaching majestic size, is the Douglas fir. This tree is naturally widespread throughout the northwest and is the most commercially important one, used extensively for lumber and Christmas tree farming. It requires open canopy to grow and typically can be found in areas cleared by natural or manmade disturbances. The common name of the tree honors David Douglas, a remarkable Scottish botanist who as a young man collected and described many species in the northwest. Though popularly named a "fir" the tree is actually not a member of the fir family but is taxonomically identified as a "False Hemlock." Beyond the naming confusion, the cones of the tree are quite different from other locally common species. The scales of the seed bearing cones have a three pointed bract sticking out above each of the cone’s scales. In Native American myth these were described as the tiny hind legs and tail of mice that hid here during a forest fire. This story artfully explains the trees frequent emergence on ground cleared by fire.

The campground offers a pleasant and quiet forest experience, aside from the sometimes boisterous river. The opening created by the river however provides layers of different habitat making birding and other wildlife observation much richer than might be found in a deep dark forest site. In addition to the overall natural setting of the camp there are occasionally exciting activities that can be viewed. The stretch of river directly adjacent to the campground is a popular whitewater run. Brightly colored kayaks, rafts and helmeted paddlers can frequently be seen alternately speeding through frothing chutes and drops, then collecting themselves in relatively quiet eddies. During Memorial Day weekend, contestants in the world-famous Ski-to-Sea Race pass by the campground. During this leg (of seven) downhill cyclers speed by connecting handoffs from mountain top runners to river canoers 40 miles apart. Small throngs of cheering bystanders can be seen along the highway on race day.

For a nearby excursion, enjoy a hike on the popular Horseshoe Bend trail (see article this website) located directly across the highway from the campground. Also nearby (only two miles away), the Glacier Ranger Station provides plenty of information about local outings including maps, directions, and of possibly greatest importance, current conditions. Be especially careful however when leaving the campground by vehicle or by foot. Though rural in appearance, the Mt. Baker Highway frequently experiences a lot of traffic and drivers may be distracted by the dramatic views that appear suddenly along the drive.

Whether you’re a local, a fellow countryman, or one of the frequent international travelers wanting to experience the natural Pacific Northwest, the Douglas Fir Campground may be one of your most pleasant stops through a fascinating and varied landscape.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 6/2/2010


Driving up the Mt. Baker Highway (State Route 542), the campground is located about two miles past (east) of the town of Glacier near Milepost # 36. After crossing a bridge over the Nooksack River the campground entrance is immediately on the left.


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