One Man Makes a Difference
The history of Back Country Horsemen of Washington (BCHW) began with one man: Ken Wilcox. Ken didn’t dream a dream. He didn’t see a vision. Ken just heard of a need, and went out to meet it. He stepped out, trusting others would join to make the difference. He was right. We have, and we still are!
In 1968, a hiker acquaintance, Louise Marshal, called Ken, then a member of the Washington State Horsemen (WSH), to inform him of a Forest Service meeting regarding trails and backcountry recreation. Ken went and realized that no one was representing horsemen! WSH appointed Ken to represent horsemen. For better representation, he took some Traildusters Saddle Club members to the meeting at the Seattle Center. By 1972, Ken was elected Trails Director of WSH. He recruited trail riders for the Trail Division. He submitted articles to the WSH monthly paper, Canter. Soon it became apparent that trail riding horsemen needed an organization dedicated solely to preserving the rights of people to use horses and mules for recreation on public lands. So, in 1976 a new organization of trail riders was formed. Also in 1976, a new horsemen’s organization called Backcountry Horsemen of America had formed in Montana and Idaho. Since objectives were the same, the new organization was called Backcountry Horsemen of Washington.
With the help of his wife, Carol Wilcox, and many friends, you and I enjoy the reality of back country recreational horse trails throughout the beautiful state of Washington. Carol stayed home to do the many chores, while Ken went to meetings with Forest Service representatives. It took time and energy. It paid off then, and still does today. BCHW continues this effort for tomorrow’s generation. Any land use meeting given by the Department of Natural Resources, the Forest Service or Park Service has representation by a local BCHW chapter. There is power in a united focus.
Founder Ken Wilcox recognized a need, and spent the remaining years of his life filling that need. He passed away following heart surgery in 1995. His spirit continues today, to charge us to always ask the question "What will this do to or for the recreational horse user?"
Additional BCHW History
While all this was going on externally, internal growth was going on simultaneously. In 1977, BCHW started the Trailhead News, a monthly publication. BCHW joined the Washington State Horse Council in 1987. In 1988 Heidi Hill and Kathi Jaeger developed a BCHW Flag. In 1988, 6000 shirt pocket sized tread lightly handouts were printed and distributed to every BCHW Chapter, and every Forest Service Office in the state! The educational program also changed their name from the Horseman Patrol to the Tread Lightly Crew, promoting the treatment of riding areas with Tender Loving Care. Around 1990 Chapter Officer Training was initiated, and a Chapter Directory started. 1996 saw a separate Education Foundation with 501(c)3 tax status established. In 1997 BCHW joined the Volunteer Trail Work Coalition. That same year saw a new logo for BCHW, along with an e-mail address for the Executive Director. Tread Lightly changed its name to Leave No Trace, and two publicity rides were held, thanks to Kathleen Dawe and Mike McGlenn. 1998 saw officers voted in by mail. 1999 saw 3 new chapters join BCHW and 4 new Master LNT trainers.
In addition to these projects, many others also were spearheaded by BCHW Chapters for the benefit of all recreational horse users. When all chapters work together for the good of horsemen, much is indeed accomplished. BCHW growth is due to the fact that goals remain ones recognized by most horsemen as a benefit for them. Educational and legislative efforts are balanced by the joy and beauty of back country riding.
BCHW is a recognized leader for developing and preserving trail systems and horse camps, and cooperating with other user groups. BCHW continues a united, patient dialogue with various land managers at local and national levels, concerning recreational stock use on public and private lands, ensuring that the history of BCHW continues to be written.
BCHW Past Presidents
BOB CALDWELL 1977-1980
FRED RYAN 1981
JOE RUSSELL 1982
FRED RYAN 1983
JIM MURPHY 1984 - 1988
GERALD WELLINGTON 1989-1990
AL BRENNER 1991-1992
GENE GILBERT 1993
RANDY DARLING 1994-1995
MIKE MCGLENN 1996-1997
MITCH BAIRD 1998-2002
RICK JOHNSON 2003-2004
DAVE JACKSON 2005
BOB SHONKA 2006
BOB GISH 2007-2009
DARRELL WALLACE 2010-2011
BOB GISH 2012-2013
TRYGVE CULP 2014-2015
KATHY YOUNG 2016-2019
JASON RIDLON 2020-2021
Dana Chambers 2022-2023
Our BCHW Membership Numbers
1977 222 members
1978 360 members
1979 452 members
1980 525 members
1981 612 members
1982 716 members
1983 806 members
1984 910 members
1985 950 members
1986 1,115 members
1987 1,279 members
1988 1,556 members
1989 1,986 members
1990 1,974 members
1991 2,310 members
1992 2,510 members
1993 2,750 members
1994 2,813 members
1995 2,702 members
1996 2,556 members
1997 2,353 members
1998 2,477 members
1999 2,454 members
2004 3,500 members
2005 2,080 members
2006 2,002 members
2007 1,859 Memberships & 2,696 Members
2008 1,790 Memberships & 2,587 Members
2009 1,688 Memberships & 2,419 Members
2010 1,656 Memberships & 2,385 Members
2011 1,567 Memberships & 2,256 Members
2012 1,649 Memberships & 2,356 Members
2013 1,649 Memberships & 2,345 Members
2014 1,503 Memberships & 2,140 Members
2015 1,477 Memberships & 2,104 Members
2016 1,476 Memberships & 2,073 Members
2017 1,394 Memberships & 1,945 Members
2018 1,487 Memberships & 2,033 Members
2019 1,586 Memberships & 2,186 Members
2020 1,513 Memberships & 2,073 Members
2021 1,438 Memberships & 2,260 Members
2022 1,445 Memberships & 2,292 Members
BCHW Chapter Installments
INLAND EMPIRE (DISBANDED 2021)
THUNDER MOUNTAIN (DISBANDED)
MASON COUNTY (DISBANDED)
MT. ST. HELENS
HIGH COUNTRY RIDERS (DISBANDED)
PURPLE SAGE RIDERS
ALPINE LAKES TRAIL RIDERS (DISBANDED)
CASCADE HORSE CLUB
ENUMCLAW TRAIL RIDERS (DISBANDED)
SOUTHWEST REGIONAL APPALOOSA CLUB (DISBANDED)
YAKIMA VALLEY (DISBANDED)
WINE COUNTRY RIDERS (DISBANDED)
BLUE MOUNTAIN (DISBANDED)
WILLIPA HILLS (DISBANDED)
CRAB CREEK RIDERS
WEST SOUND (DISBANDED 2010)
TRI RIVERS (DISBANDED)
BCHW Past Projects
Haney Meadow Horse Camp 2019 Work Party
2015 Capitol State Forest Gravel Haul
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Covell Creek Bridge Project
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Goat Creek Trail Work Party 2012
2010 Capital Forest Great Gravel Pack-In
2009 4th Annual Great Gravel Pack-In
ALDER CREEK HORSE CAMP 1972
Cascade Riders and Traildusters in co-operation with the Forest Service completed this first work project.
SAND FLATS HORSE CAMP 1972
The Meridian Riders and the Boeing Saddle Club cooperated with the Forest Service to establish this camp near Crystal Mountain, formerly known as Norse Peak Camp.
LOST MEADOW 1977
On July 9th-10th , BCHW held their first summer meeting and ride on the Little Naches drainage in Yakima County. It was also a garbage packout!
ALDERWOOD MANOR YOUTH CLUB 1977
On November 19th, the first winter meeting was held in Lynnwood.
Incorporation papers were filed.
WASHINGTON’S OCEAN BEACHES 1977
Trails were established from the uplands. This came about by presenting signed petitions at a public hearing that revised WAC (Washington Administrative Code) separating vehicle use from horse use. Ken started the paperwork in 1978, and it became a reality in 1979.
GOAT ROCKS WILDERNESS 1977
A Forest Service proposal to close a loop trail for horse use was stopped.
SAMMAMISH RIVER TRAIL 1978
Work started on fencing, next comes the trail. Hitch rails installed by 1980.
STUDEBAKER HORSE CAMP 1978
KEN WILCOX HORSE CAMP AT HANEY MEADOW 1979
In 1977 talks started about enlarging the camping area. In 1979 co-operative meetings with the Wenatchee National Forest Recreation staff began for developing the area for horse use. In 1982 the Ellensburg and Cle Elum Ranger District merged, and talks started over from scratch regarding horse camp planning. By 1983 trails were being expanded and in 1984 toilets installed. By 1985 the long struggle became reality. The Forest Service lined up a timber contractor to put in the road necessary to begin the work to develop the horse camp. Work continues to the present with many chapters coming together. Dedication held in 1992 In 1996 the name was changed to the Ken Wilcox Horse Camp.
BLACK PINE HORSE CAMP 1977-79
In the Icicle River drainage.
SALMON LA SAC 1977-79
Dedication in 1980. The YCC and YACC crews helped build this camp.
WHITE PASS 1977-79
Came about after starting with letter writings and meetings with the Forest Service Chief’s office in Washington, DC. The Meridian Riders helped with the formation of this area.
CAPITOL FOREST 1979
Meetings with trailbike users proved fruitful. A unanimous request was made to DNR to rebuild unsafe ORV trails for safe horse use and to build new trails for both bike and horse use. DNR agreed.
JOHN WAYNE PIONEER TRAIL 1980’s
Legislative friends in Olympia in 1979-80 maneuvered at the last minute and managed to get an acquisition price tacked on to a general money bill for the state to buy the Right of Way when the Milwaukee Railway announced it was abandoning its cross state rail line. Fighting off moves to stop the R/W being used as a trail followed until 1982. Chic Hollenbeck organized the first ride in 1982. 1983 brought more legislation. By 1984 the trail went from Easton to Idaho, with some gaps. The name change from the Milwaukee RR is credited to Paul Hart Sr., who personally called the John Wayne family for permission to use the John Wayne name.
ELBE HILLS HORSE CAMP 1980’s
Pierce County Chapter, D.N.R., and other interested horsemen met, and built the existing trails and camp, located east of Eatonville. Today, the Pierce County Chapter continues to improve trails and clean up dump areas in the vicinity.
TWISP RIVER HORSECAMP 1987
Methow Chapter says it will happen this year! Meetings, letters, and phone calls with the Forest Service pays off! The dedication was held in 1988.
LES HILDE TRAILHEAD 1980’s
From 1975 through 1990 efforts by the Sedro Woolley area horsemen payed off in the development of the trailhead and trail in the Harry Osborne State Forest. In 1985 the Skagit Chapter held the dedication, noting Les Hilde and Mack Johnson as tireless workers for this project. Maintaining and expanding the trail system is an on going project.
MT. SPOKANE STATE PARK 1980’s
RIVERSIDE STATE PARK
COLVILLE NATIONAL FOREST
Inland Empire Chapter is involved in the building and maintenance of these areas.
PENINSULA AREA TRAILS 1980’s
The Peninsula Chapter works with the Park Service and DNR on trails, trailhead work, trail building and maintenance.
FORT LEWIS 1980’s
KEENES HORSE CAMP
Capitol Riders Chapter oversees these areas today. Keenes was renovated in 1979.
KLICKITAT TRAIL 1980’S
Thunder Mountain and Lewis County pooled resources to open up this abandoned Indian trail. Together they also are rebuilding trails in the Packwood and Randle Ranger Districts. Lewis County entered into an agreement with a private timber company to build trails on their land.
WAPALOOSIE TRAILHEAD 1980’s
Kettle Ridge Riders developed this trailhead on Kettle Ridge.
JUNIPER DUNES WILDERNESS AREA 1980’s
Rattlesnake Ridge Riders received a national award in recognition of their working with BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in removing miles of old barbwire fencing. This chapter also works with the Pomeroy Ranger District on trails, and does projects in the Tri Cities area.
TIGER MOUNTAIN 1980’s
SAND FLAT HORSE CAMP
The Tahoma Chapter is busy with the above areas in addition to the White River Ranger District and the Norsepeak Wilderness areas, (clean-up).
TIFFANY & BONAPART LAKE AREA 1980’s
Okanogan chapter oversees these trails.
CADY RIDGE TRAIL 1980’s
Traildusters and the Forest Service maintain the trail located along the north fork of the Skykomish River. Installation of wilderness toilet was completed in 1999.
DEVA HORSE CAMP 1980’s
Whatcom Chapter with DNR handles the Chuckanut area and Deva Horse Camp and trail system to tie in with the Pacific Northwest Trail.
The Forest Service recognized our value! They initiated a request for help to repair the Canyon Creek Bridge on the Suiattle out of Darrington in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. 50 pack horse loads of timbers were supplied by Gene Gilbert, Mack Johnson and Don Parrish. Helpers were recruited from Whatcom, Skagit, Pierce County and Traildusters.
ROCK CREEK 1989
Talks began back in 1977. Meetings followed. Then the physical labor began. Dedication held in 1993, for this camp up the Chiwawa.
NICHOLSON HORSE CAMP 1990
Pierce County begins working on DNR land for a trail system. The whole project was 5 years in the works from the first talks, to meetings, to building, with the dedication in 1993.
KALAMA HORSE CAMP 1991
This camp located in SW Washington was dedicated in 1993.
BROWNS CREEK HORSE CAMP 1992
The Olympic chapter in cooperation with the Forest Service constructed this camp back in the 1980’s.
LEBAR HORSE CAMP 1996
Olympic Chapter along with the Mason County Chapter constructed this camp at Lebar Creek. Browns Creek Camp was abandoned. Lebar was dedicated in 1997.
LEWIS RIVER HORSE CAMP 1993
Dedicated in 1994.
GREEN RIVER HORSE CAMP 1993
Dedicated in 1995.
HALF CAMP 1996
CODY HORSE CAMP 2003
Dedicated in 2005