History & Culture

Four historic photos of people of the Olympic Peninsula.
The story of Olympic National Park is shared by many diverse cultures and people, including (L to R) Lower Elwha Klallam, European settlers, and World War II soldiers.  Local communities continue to be closely linked to the park in culture, heritage, and tradition.

Since the 1880s, the Olympic Peninsula's spectacular mountains, rain forest, and unique wildlife have captured the attention of visitors, park advocates, and naturalists. By 1890 Naturalist John Muir, Washington Congressman James Wickersham, and Lieutenant Joseph O'Neil, who led the first well-documented exploration of the peninsula's interior, each respectively proposed creation of a national park on the Olympic Peninsula.

Rain forest south fork of Hoh River
Click here to learn more about exploration of the Olympic Peninsula

In 1897 the area received its first national designation, as Olympic Forest Reserve, by President Grover Cleveland in response to concern about the area's disappearing forests. Eight years later, in 1909, President Teddy Roosevelt designated a part of the reserve as Mount Olympus National Monument to protect the habitat of Roosevelt Elk, whose population was in step decline.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Franklin Roosevelt visits Port Angeles.

In 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt visited the Olympic Peninsula and added his support to establishment of a national park. The following year he signed the act designating Olympic National Park. An additional area of Pacific coast was added in 1953.

World Heritage Site dedication
World Heritage Site dedication

Olympic National Park's outstanding attributes have also led to international recogn­ition. In 1976 the park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in the Man and the Biosphere Program by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

International recognition came again in 1981 when the park was declared a World Heritage Site by the World Heritage Convention, joining it to a system of natural and cultural properties that are considered irreplaceable treasures of outstanding universal value.

Quinault Indian making a canoe
Click here to learn more about tribes of the Olympic Peninsula

Local communities are closely and directly linked to the park in culture, heritage, and tradition, and also provide important historical information and meaning to the park's landscape. Eight contemporary tribes of the Olympic Peninsula - the Hoh, Ozette, Makah, Quinault, Quileute, Queets, Lower Elwha Klallam, and Jamestown S'Klallam - have lived in this area since time immemorial and continue to maintain strong relationships to the lands and waters now within Olympic National Park.

Humes Ranch Homestead
Click here to learn more about settlement of the Elwha Valley.

Interwoven throughout the park's diverse landscape is an array of cultural and historic sites that tell the human story of the park. More than 650 archeological sites document 12,000 years of human occupation of Olympic National Park lands. Historic sites reveal clues about the 200-year history of exploration, homesteading, and community development in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the continuing evolution of the federal preservation ethic.

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Mailing Address:

600 E. Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362


(360) 565-3130

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