People have been living at and using Alta Lake for as long as people have lived in the Methow Valley, between 13,000 and 10,000 years. The first documented resident was Neekowit, also known as Captain Joe.
Neekowit was the head of the Methow community that lived in and around the lower Methow Valley. When Lee Ives arrived at the confluence of the Columbia and Methow Rivers in 1886, he reported seeing a populated area and at least two dozen tepees.
That same year, the traditional Methow territory was carved into the Moses Allotments by presidential executive order. Neekowit received allotment 24. This 624-acre parcel extended from the banks of the Methow River to the shores of Alta Lake. Neekowit and his wife were residing on the property in 1900 when a jeweler from Wilbur named the lake after his daughter, Alta Heinz.
When Neekowit passed away, the allotment was inherited by his niece, Julia Ann Brooks. Julia passed away at the young age of 32. The allotment was then inherited by her mother Betsy in 1924. The estate hearing included the sale of acreage around Alta Lake to the City of Pateros. Betsy believed the sale to be limited to 22 acres, the bill of sale listed 150 acres, sold at a price consistent for 22 acres. The sale was disputed and came under congressional inquiry. The Commissioner of Indian affairs decided the sale valid because, “fully accurate land descriptions were not available.”
The Washington State Parks website indicates that in 1951, the area was given to State Parks by the city of Pateros and Alta Lake State Park was established.
Alta Lake is fed by snowpack from Billy Goat Mountain. The snowpack level has been in decline for decades, resulting in lower water levels. In the 1970s, Washington State Parks installed a pump system to divert water from Wells Dam reservoir to maintain the water level at Alta Lake. The pump project discontinued in the 1980s.
Lake levels steadily declined until 2006, when homeowners partnered with State Parks to resume pumping. With federal budget cuts in recent years, State Parks has not been able to support the pumping project. Local homeowners formed the nonprofit group, Friends of Alta Lake (FOAL), to fund pumping operations. More information and the opportunity to donate can be found on their Facebook page, “Friends of Alta Lake.”
Saturday (Aug. 15) is a big day for the Methow River. John Crandall, aquatic ecologist for Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation, is coordinating a valley-wide effort to clean up the river corridors and waterways of the Methow Valley.
Register to participate at volunteermethow.org. John and his crew have a list of large items that need special attention. Contact John at (509) 341-4341 for additional details.
The Pateros Brewster Community Resource Center (PBCRC) community kitchen came in second for the semi-finals of the Supernova Business Launch competition. Only four projects made it to the semi-finals. Now, the project needs community support to make it over the finish line.
PBCRC requests supporters to attend the virtual Main Event on Aug. 20. To learn more and register for the free event, visit http://www.supernovablc.com, where people can vote for the PBCRC community kitchen. This project creates jobs and food security with-farm-to market production.