OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Olympic National Park is a primeval wilderness of glacier-clad peaks, flower-covered alpine meadows, turbulent streams and jewel-like lakes, deep winding canyons and broad valleys supporting a rich forest growth unequaled elsewhere in America. It is located in the central part of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, the northwest corner of the United States, washed on three sides by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound.
Establishment of the park was first proposed in Congress in 1904. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside an area of 620,000 acres as the Mount Olympus National Monument. This was reduced to 322,000 acres through withdrawals by Presidential proclamations between 1912 and 1929. Congress, by Act of June 29, 1938, provided for a national park of 648,000 acres, and empowered the President later to increase the size to 898,292 acres.
The Olympic Mountains were discovered by white men in 1774, when the roving Spanish sea captain Juan Perez sighted them as he sailed along the coast. He named them Cerro De La Santa Rosalia, but the name was not destined to last. Fourteen years years later the British captain John Mears named the highest peak Mount Olympus.
These early explorers were content with only distant views of the mountains and it was not until 1854 that anyone was credited with climbing Mount Olympus. There was little reported exploration of this mountain wilderness until after 1880, and even today there are many places among the rugged peaks never visited by man.
Nature has taken advantage of a temperate climate, an annual rainfall averaging 142 inches, and favorable soil to produce in the lower valleys of the western slopes the best examples of the unique "rain forests," vast stands of Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, western red cedar and silver fir, with age-old individual trees of remarkable size and towering height. These "rain forests," unsurpassed elsewhere in the world, have a tropical appearance. Under the trees the ground is covered with ferns, vine maple, and other jungle-like undergrowth. The trees themselves are covered with mosses which drape the trunks and branches in fantastic patterns. Seedlings take root on fallen trunks which through the centuries rot away, furnishing food for new trees that in turn become forest monarchs.
The heavy rainfall on the western slopes is the result of warm Pacific air currents striking against the Olympic Mountains, soaring nearly 8,000 feet above the sea. Most of this 12 feet of precipitation falls during the winter rainy season. From June 1 to September 1, the average rainfall on the western slopes of the Peninsula is considerably less than that in the large eastern cities. In sharp contrast to the excessive rains on the western slopes, the average annual rainfall at Port Angeles, on the north end of the Peninsula, is 27 inches and at Sequim, on the east side, it is only 14 inches. Thus within a 50-mile radius is found one of the heaviest rainfalls in the United States and the driest area on the Pacific coast, exclusive of southern California.
THE OLYMPIC MOUNTAINS
The Olympic Mountains, a rugged mass of indiscriminate vastness, are centrally located on the Peninsula. There are no definite ranges; instead, a chaotic jumble of jagged peaks. They attain their highest elevation in glacier-clad Mount Olympus which towers 7,915 feet above sea level. Many of the other mountains also bear large well-formed glaciers which are slowly but continuously gouging their way down the slopes. There are more than 36 square miles of ice and snow fields on the Olympics. The glaciers are slowly receding.
Large bands of Roosevelt elk, native of the Olympic Peninsula, but now nearly extinct in other areas, are seen during the summer months along the river bars and in the open, high country. The more fortunate explorer may glimpse a cougar, but rarely. Black-tailed deer are numerous and black bear often are seen, especially when the berries ripen on the mountain meadows. Other animals found in the area include squirrels, raccoons, skunks, marmots, mink, marten, otter and many others. Mountain goats, placed in the Olympics about 15 years ago, are believed to be increasing in numbers. The eagle, hawk, and raven nest high among the peaks, while grouse are commonly seen along the trails.
Hundreds of species of beautiful wildflowers, more than 20 of which are not found elsewhere, carpet the alpine meadows in riotous colors. Heavy snows protect the plants in winter and furnish an abundance of moisture in the spring for rapid growth.
LAKES AND STREAMS
The Olympic Mountains are studded with numerous mirror-like lakes. Lake Crescent, at the northern extremity of the park, is one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the United States.
Many rivers, whose sources are the glaciers of the higher peaks, with their cataracts and falls, wind through the deep tortuous canyons and the wider valleys. Although fed by live glaciers, many of the streams are not heavily burdened with glacial silt, but are clear.
Nearly all the lakes and streams in the park offer good fishing. Native rainbow and cutthroat trout are plentiful. Some waters are stocked with eastern brook trout, and steelhead, gamest of fish, are found in a few of the rivers. In Lake Crescent are the famous Beardsley trout, a game fish that grows to 20 pounds or more.
A county or State fishing license is required. A State license, for residents and non-residents, costs $5; a county license for non-residents, $3.
ROADS IN AND NEAR THE PARK
The Olympic Highway, U. S. 101, leaves the Pacific Highway, U. S. 99, at Olympia and encircles the Peninsula, passing through the towns of Hoodsport, Sequim, Port Angeles, Forks, Aberdeen, and Hoquiam for a distance of about 368 miles. Only 12 miles of the highway are in the park, passing along the south shore of Lake Crescent.
Stub roads branch from the Olympic Highway and lead up most of the main rivers to or within a few miles of the park.
Hurricane Ridge Road, a truck trail, leaves the Olympic Highway 11 miles south and west of Port Angeles and follows the Elwha River 24 miles to the park entrance, ending at Obstruction Point, 3 miles within the park. This road affords an excellent view of Mount Olympus, the Bailey Range. Mount Anderson, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island, Victoria, B. C., and the town of Port Angeles.
Olympic Hot Springs Road leaves Hurricane Ridge Road 4 miles from the Olympic Highway and extends 7 miles to Olympic Hot Springs.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Road leaves the Olympic Highway 30 miles west of Port Angeles and follows the Sol Duc River 12 miles to the Hot Springs.
Bogachiel River Road ends approximately 15 miles outside the park.
Hoh River Road 14 miles south of Forks, follows the Hoh River 18 miles to Jackson Ranger Station in the "rain forest." From Jackson Ranger Station is the most accessible route to Mount Olympus.
Queets River Road, 7 miles from the Indian village of Queets, extends 12 miles up the Queets River, ending at Kelly's Ranch 11 miles from the park.
North Shore Quinault Road, 3 miles north of Quinault, follows the North Fork Quinault River 23 miles to the North Fork Guard Station, a mile and a half within the park.
East Fork Quinault Road, from Quinault, follows the East Fork Quinault River 17 miles to Graves Creek.
North Fork Skokomish Road, from Hoodsport, extends 19 miles to 3 miles above Staircase Camp, ending 7 miles outside the park.
Duckabush River Road, 12 miles north of Hoodsport, extends 12 miles over rough truck trail, ending in logged-off land.
Dosewallips River Road. 15.7 miles north of Hoodsport at Brinnon, extends along the Dosewallips River for 15 miles, ending at Dosewallips River Falls.
Deer Park Road, 5 miles east of Port Angeles, ends at Deer Park, a distance of 17 miles, with an elevation of 5,400 feet, 2 miles outside the park.
Trails lead into and through the park from the ends of the stub approach roads and make accessible much of the territory within the boundaries. The trails are safe and passable for both saddle and foot parties; however, the tread of the trails is narrow. Trailside shelters have been erected at many campsites.
Mountain goats often are seen from the foot trail from the Storm King State Fish Hatchery and Rosemary Inn to Storm King Mountain. A short foot trail from Rosemary Inn also leads to the beautiful Marymere Falls. From Sol Duc Road a trail leads to Bogachiel Peak, for a striking panoramic view, including Mount Olympus. seen across the mile-deep Hoh River canyon. Large bands of elk frequently are seen along this trail. Trails from Jackson Ranger Station wind through the "rain forest." These are only a few. Others lead to the numerous lakes and along the upper reaches of the streams, where there is good fishing.
Within the park two lodges or chalets are operated under supervision of the Federal Government, one at Low Divide in the central part and the other at Enchanted Valley in the southeastern section of the park. Excellent hotel accommodations and housekeeping cabins are provided just outside the park at Olympic Hot Springs, on the Elwha River. Housekeeping cabins are also available at Sol Duc Hot Springs. There are swimming pools filled with water from natural hot springs at each of these places.
Several very good, privately-owned and operated hotels, inns and camps are within the park, including Rosemary Inn, Ovington's, Crescent Tavern, Lapoel Resort, East Beach. Storm King Inn and Lenoir's Resort at Lake Crescent; and Graves Creek Inn on the East Fork Quinault River.
There are numerous resorts along the Olympic Highway and on the various stub roads outside the park; also many camping facilities. Most of these are good bases from which to make trips through the park. Among the camps on the stub roads are those at Staircase Resort, Waumilla Lodge, and Kelly's Ranch.
Automobile camps include Storm King Auto Camp, privately operated, and free camps at Lapoel Resort, Olympic Hot Springs, and Graves Creek. In addition the National Park Service operates a free campground, with simple accommodations, at Jackson Ranger Station and Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Rates are $1.00 per day and up per person for cabins, depending upon furnishings, and $4.50 per day and up per person for hotel accommodations, American plan.
Saddle and pack horses and guides are available at the ends of stub roads, as follows: Olympic Hot Springs, Whiskey Bend, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Hoh River, North and East Forks of the Quinault River, Skokomish River and Dosewallips River. The average rate for horse hire is $3.00 per day for horse and $6.00 per day for guides. Weekly rates or rates for five or more persons may be arranged.
RULES TO BE OBSERVED
Please help to keep the park clean. Do not scatter papers, picnic remnants, etc.; throw all trash into receptacles.
It is unlawful to disturb flowers, shrubs or trees, to mar or deface signs or buildings, to carve initials on any object. Do not throw stones or other material at trees, birds or other objects in the park.
Extinguish fires completely before leaving. Be sure cigarettes and matches are extinguished before disposal.
Hunting is prohibited.
Dogs, cats and firearms are not allowed within the park. Do not feed the bears.
Detailed information may be obtained by calling at the headquarters of the National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, for the park in Port Angeles, Washington, or by writing to The Superintendent, Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, Washington.
The Olympic Peninsula is easily reached from Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Vancouver, B. C., and other northwest cities. Ferry boats run on regular schedules from Seattle and Edmonds across Puget Sound to Port Townsend and Port Ludlow. Ferry service also is available from Victoria, B. C., to Port Angeles.
Last Updated: 20-Jun-2010