• Olympic: Three Parks in One


    National Park Washington

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  • Madison Falls Trail Closed for Repairs Beginning July 7

    The one-tenth mile Madison Falls Trail and trailhead parking lot located in Elwha Valley will close to public entry beginning on Monday, July 7 while crews make improvements and repairs.

  • Hurricane Ridge Road Closed to Vehicles Sunday 8/3 (6:00a - noon)

    Due to the "Ride the Hurricane" bicycle event, the road to Hurricane Ridge will be closed above the Heart o' the Hills entrance station from 6:00a to noon on Sunday August 3rd.

Chinook Salmon

chinook salmon

Chinook salmon - Oncorynchus tshawytscha

Chinook can be differentiated from other salmon by their coloring and size. They can spend up to seven years in the ocean, generally weighing between 15 and 50 lbs when they return to spawn in the rivers. Elwha Chinook were known for their large body size, with some fish weighing as much as 100 lbs. This makes them the largest of the Pacific salmon, giving them the nickname of "king" salmon. While they are bright silver in the ocean, they take on a brown, black, or olive color upon returning to spawn in fresh water. Chinook are also set apart by a great deal of spotting on their backs and tails, and a distinctive black gum line.

Chinook salmon

A Chinook salmon swims through shallow streams on its way to spawn.

Scott Church

The majority of Chinook spawn in the fall, and can be found in all of the park’s coastal rivers. There are also small spring runs in the Hoh, Queets, and Quinault Rivers, and summer runs in the Hoh, Queets, and Quillayute Rivers. The spring and summer Chinook runs tend to remain in the rivers throughout summer.

The leftover carcasses of these runs provide essential nutrients for other carnivorous members of the wildlife community. The redds, or nests, of Chinook salmon are huge and easy to spot from the banks of the spawning grounds. They can be up to 10 ft in diameter. If you see a redd, avoid stepping on it, as salmon eggs are easily and often damaged by trampling.

Conservation Status:
Though the runs in west coast valley rivers are stable, the Puget Sound Chinook are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This covers the shortage of Chinook from the Elwha River to the Hood Canal and Puget Sound. Prior to dam construction in the Elwha River, the Chinook runs were legendary for their size and numbers. In the fall, they can still be spotted, returning to the base of the Elwha dam in an effort to return to the upper reaches of the river to spawn. (Historical Range Map)

Although not listed, a number of spring Chinook runs on the west coast of the peninsula are also depressed. With careful tactics, both the spring-run and the summer/fall-run chinook stand a good chance of recovery. In January of 2007, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) adopted the final Endangered Species Act recovery plan for the Puget Sound Chinook.

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This webpage was made possible in part by a grant from Washington's National Park Fund.

Did You Know?

DYK fisher release

Fishers (members of the weasel family, related to minks and otters) were reintroduced to Olympic National Park in 2008-10. They are native to the forests of Washington, including the Olympic Peninsula, but disappeared due to overtrapping in the late 1800s/early 1900s and habitat loss.