For Detailed Information
Mount Olympus National Monument, aptly described as "America's Last Frontier," embodies a jumbled mass of jagged peaks--the Olympic Mountains; unsurpassed displays of radiant alpine flowers; tumultous glaciers and turbulent streams; and magnificent "rain forests." Here is found undisturbed natural beauty in an area inspiring to pioneers and not yet scarred by man's activity. The Monument comprises 322,000 acres.
The Mountains forming the backbone of the Monument attain their highest elevation in Mount Olympus, towering 7,915 feet above sea level with Puget Sound on the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Placed indiscriminately the mountains impress visitors with vastness and might. There is no definite mountain range--instead the spectacle is one of a chaotic jumble of rugged peaks.
On the sides of many of these peaks are numerous large and well-formed glaciers--rivers of ice constantly trudging downward, gouging the sides of peaks and forming deep moraines. Perhaps the most outstanding is the Blue Glacier of Mount Olympus with its snout projecting over a precipitous cliff. During the warm summer months, when the movements of the glaciers are marked, huge blocks of ice break off and crash to the rocks below, creating a terrific rumble.
The glaciers are fed by an enormous amount of precipitation that falls mainly in the form of snow. On Mount Olympus the annual precipitation reaches the astounding amount of 250 inches.
Elaborate Flower Fields
This excessive rainfall is responsible to a great degree for the beautiful alpine flowers that carpet the high "parks." Hundreds of species of flowers are matted together in a brilliant color array. During winter months the plants are protected from severe cold by deep snows. In spring the melting provides abundant moisture for rapid growth. Over twenty species of flowers are found in the Olympics that occur no other place, and there are undoubtedly many plants native to the high places that have not yet been classified.
Lakes and Streams
The mountains are studded with many small jewel-like lakes, their background of alpine forests, glaciers, timberline meadows and rugged peaks forming a never-to-be-forgotten picture. These mirror-waters that reflect the ice-clad peaks and alpine landscapes are fed by the melting snows. Streams terminating in the lakes, or in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean, are peculiarly beautiful and many unusually deep, tortuous canyons have been formed by the charging waters. Glaciers are the source of most of these streams.
Unique Rain Forests
In the lower elevations of the Monument are limited specimens of the famed "rain forests" that once covered much of the Peninsula. As the prevailing winds carrying rain are from the west, the larger trees are on that side of the mountains. These trees, Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce, Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, Firs, and others, have reached impressive sizes during past centuries. As a result of the heavy rainfall the forests are almost tropical in appearance. Moss covered logs, heavy fern, vine maple and other jungle-like undergrowth are delightful to the eye. Trees are often decorated with heavy growths of moss which festoon trunks and branches. To many world travelers the unsurpassed beauty of the "Rain Forests" is more impressive than the rugged mountains.
The imposing Roosevelt Elk, native of the Olympic Peninsula and now almost extinct in other regions, are seen during the summer months in large bands in the high country. Deer and bear are numerous. Other animals abound, including otter, raccoon, skunk, squirrel, the eagle, raven, hawk and grouse. Within the Monument the animals and birds are protected from hunters and retained as heritage for future generations.
The streams within the Monument afford good fishing.
The Elwha River and its tributaries, in the north central section of the area, yield good catches as do many other streams. The Hoh River, in the northwest section, affords excellent fishing during the early summer and late fall when the glaciers are less active.
Lakes are well stocked with game fish such as Eastern Brook, Steelhead, Cutthroat and Rainbow trout. Lakes noted for exceptional fishing are Mary Margaret, Hoh and the Seven Lakes.
A county or state fishing license is required for those wishing to fish within the Monument.
ACCESSIBILITY OF THE MONUMENT
The Olympic Peninsula, forming the northwest corner of the United States, is easily reached from Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Victoria, B. C., and other northwest cities. The Olympic Highway completely loops the Peninsula. This highway is reached most easily from Seattle and Tacoma across Puget Sound to the Peninsula and the loop highway from Victoria, B. C., across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Stub roads branch from the Olympic Highway and lead up the main rivers to within a few miles of the Monument. There are no roads within the Monument.
From the ends of the stub approach roads, trails lead into the Monument and make available much of the reserved area within the boundaries. The trails are passable and safe for both saddle and foot parties. However, the tread is narrow in keeping with the policy of maintaining the area as a true wilderness. Trail-side shelters have been erected for the use and comfort of hikers and saddle horse parties. (See map for general routes of trails and locations of shelters).
Saddle stock may be secured either at commercial resorts or from ranchers at the ends of the approach roads.
All supplies used within the Monument must be carried with each party. There are no stores within the area.
Within the Monument there are two commercial chalets. One at Low Divide in the south central section and one at Enchanted Valley in the southeast corner of the Monument. These chalets, accessible only by foot or horse, offer comfortable accommodations and are excellent base camps for extended trips through the vast region of Olympic peaks.
There are numerous resorts along the Olympic Highway and on the various stub roads which afford hotel accommodations as well as camping facilities. Many of these resorts are good base camps from which short trips into the Monument can be made easily.
Dogs and Firearms
Dogs and firearms are not allowed within the boundaries of Mount Olympus National Monument.
The Olympic Mountains were first discoverd by white men in 1774 when the roving Spanish sea captain Juan Perez sighted them as he sailed along the Washington coast. He named the mountains Cerro de la Santa Rosalia, but the name was not destined to last. Fourteen years later the British captain, John Mears, named the highest peak Mount Olympus.
These early explorers were content with only distant views of the mountain and not until 1854 was anyone credited with climbing Mount Olympus. There was little reported exploration of this mountain wilderness until after 1880, and even today there are many places in these rugged mountains never visited by men.
THE EFFORT TO PRESERVE THE WILDERNESS
1904--Congressman Francis W. Cushman of Tacoma introduced a bill for the establishment of Elk National Park in the center of the Olympic Peninsula with an area of 393,000 acres. The bill did not pass.
1906 and 1908--Congressman William E. Humphrey, of Seattle, introduced bills to create a game refuge on the Olympic Peninsula. The bills failed.
1909--President Theodore Roosevelt, by proclamation, established Mount Olympus National Monument in the center of the Olympic Peninsula comprising 620,000 acres. The purpose of his act was to preserve "certain objects of unusual scientific interest, including numerous glaciers, and the region which from time immemorial has formed the summer range and breeding grounds of the Olympic Elk (Cervus-Roosveltz), a species peculiar to these mountains and rapidly decreasing in number."
1915--President Woodrow Wilson withdrew half the area from the Monument, reducing it to its present size.
June 10, 1933--By executive order, President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred the Monument, with other areas, from the jurisdiction of the U. S. Forest Service to the National Park Service for administration as a unit in the National Park and Monument System.
March 28, 1935--Congressman Monrad C. Wallgren, of Everett, in the 74th Congress, 1st session, introduced a bill for the establishment of Mount Olympus National Park comprising generally Mount Olympus National Monument and some adjacent lands. This bill was not acted upon.
April 23, 1936--Congressman Wallgren introduced a bill in the 74th Congress, 2nd session, for establishment of Mount Olympus National Park. This bill provided for a park of approximately 728,000 acres of which the present Monument would be a part. Public hearings were held and the proposed park was studied by the House of Representatives Public Lands Committee from April 23 to May 5, 1936. It was reported out of committee May 5 with a recommendation that the bill be passed. The 74th Congress adjourned before action was taken on the recommendation.
February 15, 1937--Congressman Wallgren, introduced an amended bill in the 75th Congress for the establishment of the Mount Olympus National Park. This would provide a park of approximately 634,000 acres--a reduction of about 94,000 acres of timbered area from the original bill.
August 11, 1937--The 1937 Wallgren Bill was approved by the House Public Lands Committee who recommended its enactment.
For Further Information
It is highly desirable that anyone planning a trip into the Mount Olympus National Monument have complete and detailed information. This information may be obtained by calling at the National Park Service headquarters of the Monument in Port Angeles, Washington, or by writing to: The Custodian, Mount Olympus National Monument, Port Angeles, Washington.
Last Updated: 20-Jun-2010