How Port Angeles Got Its Name

Olympic National Park


Welcome to the largest gateway community to Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, or as it was called during the Spanish colonial era, Nuestra Señora del Puerto de los Ángeles (Our Lady of the Port of the Angels). Its name conserves the Spanish imperial activities in the Pacific Northwest. Here Spain hoped to find the mythical Northwest Passage that connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to counter British regional advances and to dominate the sea otter pelt trade.

To chart good ports and future settlements sites, in 1790, Spain tapped Peruvian Manuel Quimper Benitez del Pino to map the straight of Juan de Fuca. Quimper named Port Angeles as well as the Quimper Peninsula, today the site of Port Townsend. Quimper also laid claim to Makah land and renamed it Puerto de Núñez Gaona, making it the first non-native settlement in Washington. That outpost would only last four months.

Spanish colonizers met with essential facts of life in the Pacific Northwest--rain, humidity and eager wildlife. Mold and rats attacked pantries, making basic sustenance a challenge. Failing to establish alliances and close trading ties with the indigenous people for sea otter pelts. Spain's colonial dreams for the regional disappeared. By 1794 the British pressured Spain to abandon its it main northwest settlements.

The Adams-Onis treaty relinquished Spain's territorial claims to the Pacific Northwest. In 1846, the US singed the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain, fixing the boundary between the United States and then British Colonial Canada. Today only a few names like Port Angeles commemorates Spain's failed imperial dreams in the Pacific Northwest.


Spanish colonial dreams for the Pacific Northwest echo in the names of places all around Olympic National Park!


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