• Olympic: Three Parks in One


    National Park Washington

There are park alerts in effect.
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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.

  • Spruce Railroad Trail Improvements to Begin August 5

    Spruce Railroad Trail will be closed from the Lyre River TH to approximately 0.25 miles east of Devil’s Punchbowl. Work is expected to be completed by the end of October. The remainder of the trail will be accessible from the Camp David Jr. Road TH. More »

  • Safety Advisory: Mountain Goats

    NPS has received reports of aggressive mountain goats near trails at Hurricane Ridge, Royal Basin, Seven Lakes Basin, Lake of the Angeles, & Grand Pass. Visitors are required to maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from all wildlife. More »

  • Safety Advisory: Rabies

    Rabies has been detected in a single bat in the Lake Crescent area of the park. Rabies exposure is extremely rare, but fatal if untreated. Anyone observing unusual or aggressive behavior among park wildlife should inform a park ranger as soon as possible. More »

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon

Sockeye salmon - Oncorynchus nerka

Sockeye salmon are found in the Quinault and Ozette River systems of Olympic National Park and historically inhabited the Elwha River prior to the construction of two large hydroelectric dams. Though silver in the ocean like other salmon, their backs are often a deep blue color, giving them the nickname of "blue-backs." Sockeye develop dark greenish heads and bright red bodies in preparation for spawning. Males also develop a humped back and hooked nose, or kype. Sockeye tend to return to river systems with lakes, and may spawn in streams or along lake shorelines.

sockeye spawn on edge of lake

Sockeye spawn near the edge of a lake

There are two significant runs within Olympic National Park. In the Quinault River, sockeye can be observed spawning in November and December in tributaries and in the river. A great place to see the run is in in the Quinault Valley at Big Creek, off of the North Fork road. Another small run enters Ozette Lake in summer and spawns along the edges and tributaries of the lake in winter. The Ozette sockeye are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Young fry stay in the rivers from one to three years before heading to sea. They then spend about four years at sea before returning to their native lakes and tributaries to spawn.

Lake Ozette and Lake Crescent both have populations of "landlocked" sockeye called Kokanee. They spend their entire lives in the lake and are smaller than the anadromous version of sockeye. Lake Crescent's population of Kokanee is thought to have become landlocked when Lake Crescent was separated from Lake Sutherland by a massive landslide about 7,000 years ago. Lake Sutherland drains into the Elwha River, which, in the past, had sockeye returns before the construction of the Elwha dam. (Historic Range Map)

Conservation Status:
The sockeye in Lake Quinault historically numbered in the millions, but are much reduced from a century ago. In 2007, less than 5,000 sockeye returned to the river.

The anadromous stock of sockeye in Lake Ozette Lake is listed as threatened under the Endanged Species Act. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) adopted a final recovery plan in May 2009.

Sockeye in the Elwha River are basically extinct. When the dams are removed, it is anticipated that the Lake Sutherland Kokanee population will contribute to the natural restoration of sockeye. It is unknown as to how rapidly sockeye will recover; projections have been made which hope to restore the population to around 3,000 spawners in the two decades following dam removal.

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External links:

NOAA fisheries

To learn more about recovery efforts for Lake Ozette sockeye, take a look at these additional sites:

NOAA's Lake Ozette sockeye recovery page

Washington Coast Sustainable Salmon Partnership website

The West End Natural Resources News (a publication of the North Pacific Coast (NPC) Marine Resources Committee and the NPC Lead Entity for Salmon Recovery)

Issue No. 6 June 2013

Issue No. 5 April 2013

Issue No. 3 April 2012 (PDF)


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.