Olympic National Park

DSCF1466

Ruby Beach photographed 04/17/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

It seems impossible to summarize the diversity of Olympic National Park in one photo. Spanning over 1441 square miles (3732 square km) in northwestern Washington, this park encompasses some of the most varied terrain in the entire US National Park Service. Along the Pacific coast sandy beaches are interspersed with rocky shores where tide pools teem with marine life. Dense temperate rainforests range from the coasts to the interior highlands where a variety of organisms benefit from the highest rainfall in the continental United States. Further inland the glaciated peaks of the Olympic Mountains dominate the landscape, providing a home for alpine plants and animals. Perhaps more than any other national park, there’s something for everyone here.

DSCF1925

Road along Lake Crescent. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

My wife and I only had two days to see Olympic, but as tireless adventurers we set out to experience as much as possible in our limited time. Our first stops were along the string of beaches near Kalaloch where the Pacific Ocean meets the rocky edge of the temperate rainforest. Flight delays put us behind schedule but we managed to arrive at the coast just before sunset.

DSCF1420

Ruby Beach photographed 04/17/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Perhaps the most fascinating features here were the abundant seastacks. These resistant sedimentary and volcanic beds have endured the force of relentless ocean waves, eroding more slowly than the rocks around them.

DSCF2075

Pacific Ocean and seastacks near La Push. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Later in our trip we would see some more of these geologic features near La Push. Rialto Beach in particular was intriguing for its massive pile-up of driftwood and dead trees along the storm-battered shore.

DSCF2182

Pacific Ocean and seastacks near La Push. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Here we were near the mouth of the Quillayute River, where a misty morning shrouded the landscape.

DSCF2149

Misty morning near the mouth of the Quillayute River. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Among these brackish waters a number of California sea lions hunted, played, and barked occasionally. We spent some time sitting back, relaxing and observing, enchanted with their activity.

DSCF2155

Sea lions near the mouth of the Quillayute River. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

In this neck of the woods we also found an immature Bald Eagle perching on the driftwood…

DSCF2090

Immature bald eagle near the mouth of the Quillayute River. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

…a mature Bald Eagle among the foggy tree tops…

DSCF2173

Bald eagle near the mouth of the Quillayute River. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

…some kelp washed up on shore…

DSCF2125

Kelp washed up on Rialto Beach. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

…as well as innumerable purple sailors stranded on the beach:

DSCF2112

Purple sailors washed up on Rialto Beach. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

From the shore we traveled inland through the temperate rainforest that covers much of the Olympic Peninsula.

DSCF1962

Sunrise near Sol Duc. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

This region receives more rainfall than anywhere else in the continental United States. Twelve to fourteen FEET (3.7-4.3 METERS) of rain falls here annually, supporting massive trees. Dominant trees include Sitka spruce and western hemlock, along with a variety of other conifers and a few deciduous species.

DSCF1982

Massive conifers near Sol Duc. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

The forest understory here is filled with ferns, mosses, lichens, and other moisture-loving plants.

DSCF2272

Ferns, mosses, and lichens at the Hoh Rainforest. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Some of the more noticeable plants included salmonberries…

DSCF1340

Salmonberry near Kalaloch. Photographed 04/17/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

…as well as yellow skunk cabbage:

DSCF1730

Yellow skunk cabbage near Heart O’ the Hills. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Lurking among the moist foliage were gigantic banana slugs…

DSCF1343

Banana slug near Kalaloch. Photographed 04/17/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

…and also the much more gigantic Roosevelt elk:

DSCF2311

Roosevelt elk in the Hoh Rainforest. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

From here we ventured into the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. The abundant snow and rain that falls on the highlands concentrates into raging rivers that support verdant landscapes.

DSCF1992

Salmon Cascades near Sol Duc. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Throughout autumn a number of salmon species fight their way up these rivers to spawn. At this time of year they can sometimes be seen launching themselves up the daunting rapids.

Water seems to flow everywhere in Olympic, and even the smallest cascades provide some idyllic scenes:

DSCF2016

Small mossy cascade along the Sol Duc Falls trail. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

The hiking trails around Sol Duc Falls are really nice, and the falls themselves aren’t too shabby either:

DSCF2034

Sol Duc Falls photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Here we found a few pairs of Columbian black-tailed deer does and fawns, and even the babies seemed unmoved by human presence:

DSCF1998

Columbian black-tailed deer fawn near Sol Duc. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Near Sol Duc is Lake Crescent, a clear and gorgeous body of water among the Olympic foothills.

DSCF1903

Lake Crescent photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Near the shore we found this breeding pair of Common Mergansers shaking their tail feathers:

DSCF1883

Common Mergansers along Lake Crescent. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

The sights around this lake were serene and beautiful, even more so when the sun settled into the mountainous horizon:

DSCF1840

Sunset along Lake Crescent. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Moving ever higher in elevation, we eventually made our way up Hurricane Ridge into the heart of the Olympic Mountains.

DSCF1787

Forested mountains along Hurricane Ridge. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Above about 4000 feet (1220 m) snow was still present in mid-April.

DSCF1783

Forested mountains along Hurricane Ridge. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

The road was closed beyond the Hurricane Ridge visitor center, and the presence of snow-removal equipment was a sign there was still work to be done to clear the road.

DSCF1777

Snow removal equipment along Hurricane Ridge. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

There was enough snow present at the visitor center that someone left a little snowman. He was a little melted from the mild temperature, but represented an otherwise welcoming host at this location.

DSCF1809

Little snowman near the Hurricane Ridge visitor center. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

The enduring spring snow also made the Olympic Mountains rather lovely. These peaks are the result of an accretionary wedge that has formed as the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate has subducted under the North American plate.

DSCF1792

Forested mountains along Hurricane Ridge. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

From the sandy beaches littered with driftwood and seastacks to the glaciated and forested peaks of the Olympic Mountains, Olympic National Park is astounding in both its size and scope of environments. Although my wife and I managed to sample the diversity in only two days, one could easily spend a week or more breathing it all in.

DSCF1356

Sunset near the Kalaloch Lodge. Photographed 04/17/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

Advertisements

About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Ecology, Geology, Invertebrate Zoology, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology, Weather and Climate and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Olympic National Park

  1. The olympic Park seems like a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for sharing the picture of the banana slug 😀 … it’s the first time I’m seeing this species ! The purple sailors are quite interesting as well ! So much wildlife !

    Like

  2. Jeremy Sell says:

    I got some better views of a banana slug at Redwood National Park in northern California a couple years ago…

    https://thelifeofyourtime.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/pacific-banana-slug/

    It hadn’t rained at Olympic for about a week before we got there, and the lack of moisture seemed to keep the banana slugs mostly in hiding.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s