Olympic National Park is home to over a million acres of pristine landscape. Visitor centers, campgrounds, and coastal areas including Kalaloch, Mora, and Ozette trails and their respective parking areas remain closed temporarily. The Sol Duc hot springs are closed but the road towards the springs remains open. Even with some locations closed, the densely forested inland areas are still a welcome respite for the Seattle residents that have been stuck inside.
Seattle History Entrenched in Nature
For thousands of years, humans have called this vast wilderness home. Today, 8 contemporary Native Tribes still have deep connections to the land and waters that flow through the park. The first well-documented exploration of the Olympic Peninsula occurred in the 1800s led by Naturalist John Muir and Washington Congressman James Wickersham. It wasn’t until 1937 that it was established as a National Park by President Franklin Roosevelt. In the years since incorporation, more than 650 archeological sites have been found and preserved illustrating the 12,000+ years of human habitation in the area. Washingtonians and Seattleites are very proud of their long-standing relationship with these lands.
A Daytrip to the Rainforest
Hoh Rainforest is one of the finest examples of a temperate rainforest in the United States. To put it into perspective, Seattle gets approximately 36 inches of rain per year while the Hoh Rainforest gets as much as 14 feet of precipitation (and that doesn’t count the rainfall associated with the rolling fog). The Hall of Moss Trail is the perfect place to start exploring the forest. Sitka spruce and western hemlocks are draped in lush, dense moss from top to bottom. The moss creates a dampening effect making the area even more tranquil than the rest of the forest. The 5-Mile Island hike is a deeper path into the forest and follows the Hoh River along its gentle way. Spring means the end of the rainy season and the last chance for visitors to spot the Roosevelt elk that make their way to higher elevations in the summer. The rainy season also brings out banana slugs. These bright yellow slugs are easy to spot against the deep green surroundings. At nearly 10 inches long and weighing a quarter of a pound, they don’t hide very well from prying eyes.
A Lakeside Retreat
Another picturesque location, Lake Crescent, is included in the reopening line up. At 8 square miles and nearly 300 feet deep at its deepest point, Lake Crescent is one of the most popular marine spots in the park. There are picnic areas scattered around the lake for hikers to enjoy a bite to eat, but remember to pack in and pack out! The Barnes Creek trail is a scenic hike around the lake and up to Marymere Falls, a 90-foot cataract surrounded by dense forests. Visitors that want to get out on the water may do so at the Storm King boat launch. Canoe and kayak around the lake and enjoy the mountains reflected in its mirrored surface. Catch and release angling is allowed in the lake and all of its tributaries. Trout fishing is particularly popular. Approximately 7,000 years ago, there was a landslide that separated Lake Crescent from nearby Lake Sutherland. The trout have since evolved into two distinctly different species due to genetic isolation.
Olympic National Park is supporting resource recovery in more ways than just “leave no trace” efforts. The largest dam removal project the U.S. has ever seen got underway in 2011. The Elwha and Glines Canyon dams were demolished in an effort to restore more than 70 miles of river habitat. The restoration will help create environments for salmon spawning and rearing. The combined population of all 5 native species of salmon is expected to grow from 3,000 to 400,000 in these restored streams. At this time, salmon fishing is restricted during the spawning season. When they aren’t spawning, salmon fishing is catch and release. Other resource recovery efforts have included local students. Students germinated native plants in greenhouses to help restore the natural habitats after the dams were completely removed.