Olympic Peninsula, USA

This enormous land mass in northwestern Washington is anchored by Olympic National Park and rimmed by mostly private lands save for the western perimeter, which holds the most vast pristine wilderness coastal areas in the lower 48. The northwestern tip of the peninsula features Flattery Point, which is a superb rocky conifer forest, and the point itself is the westernmost point of the lower 48.

Many consider the crown jewel of the Olympic Peninsula to be the vast old growth temperate rainforests, epitoimized by the Hoh Rainforest, perpetually dripping in mosses. The Hoh Rainforest lies along the banks of the eponymous Hoh River and features gigantic Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and an admixture of other conifers and a few broadleaf tree taxa such as Bigleaf Maple. The rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula boast upwards of 300 cm of rain annually, nurturing a verdant understory of Salal and other shrubs along with diverse ferns, mosses and lichens.

The true majesty of this peninsula lies in the rugged pristine wilderness areas along the west coast. Shrouds of fog and mist only add to the utter mystery of this generally inaccessible beach and forest realm. The foreshore holds sandy beaches, jagged rock outcrops and old growth forests that end abruptly at the backshore. The intertidal zone is strewn with fallen conifers that lived for centuries and are now the largest driftwood in North America. There is little road access to this coastal wilderness, and very few trails other than hikes alog the intertidal zone which must be carefully timed to high tide issues. High biodiversity of this coastal wonderland is palpable in the plethora of avifauna, conifer forest vascular plants as well as fungi and mosses; there are plenty of mammals present also, including American Black Bear, Bobcat, Fisher and Mountain Lions.

In the surrounding Pacific Ocean and San Juan de Fuca Strait one ay sight Grey and Humpback Whales; In the calmer strait one may also see Orcas and porpoises; however my best sightings of sealife were from a small boat in San Juan de Fuca Strait, where not only cetaceans, but a myriad of marine birds as well as sea lions and seals are obserbed on the hundreds of offshore skerries.

Special points of coastal access along San Juan de Fuca Strait are Pillar Point and Dungeness Spit; the former abounds in rocky titepools where one can walk out a hundred meters at low tide and explore diverse bivalves, rockweeds, barnacles and a variety of shorebirds. Dungeness Spit is one of the longest sand spits in North America and is embedded in a protected area with copious hiking trails.

Posted on October 02, 2017 11:15 PM by c_michael_hogan c_michael_hogan


I enjoyed reading your description of the Olympic Peninsula, my home for the past 6 1/2 years. It sounds like you've had a lovely trip and found many of the best places and a huge variety of species! One note is that the Gray Wolf is actually not yet back in Western Washington. This map shows the location of the packs: http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/packs/

Posted by wendy5 over 6 years ago

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments

Gracias al apoyo de:

¿Quiere apoyarnos? Pregúntenos cómo escribiendo a snib.guatemala@gmail.com