Olympic National Park, Washington

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Olympic National Park is one of the most mixed bags of any national park. It has mountains, glaciers, temperate rain forests and wilderness coasts. Representative samples of its different terrains are accessible by car, but the vast majority of it is designated wilderness. It was actually some of the last territory to be explored in the continental United States.

Cape Alava, westernmost point in the continental United States, is not in the park but on the Ozette Indian Reservation.

This area is as good an example of drawing boundaries with complete disregard for geography as anyplace in the world. Jefferson County consists of the western shore of Puget Sound plus a strip running right across the center of the Olympic Mountains. Nowadays with telephones and the Internet it's not such a big deal, but in the 19th century the Pacific side of the county might as well have been on the moon.

Ruby Beach

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Olympic National Park, WashingtonThe beach gets its name from garnets that occur in the sand. This is textbook immature sediment, derived by rapid erosion of high-relief terrain and rapid transport to its deposition site. It is essentially ground up rock with very little weathering and includes lots of rock fragments and unstable minerals.
Olympic National Park, WashingtonSomewhat coarser beach sediment.
Olympic National Park, WashingtonThe rock is just a lithified version of the beach sand and is called graywacke.
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Hoh Rain Forest

Olympic National Park, WashingtonView of the Olympic Mountains.
Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: the Hoh River
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonAnsel Adams, John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, wherever you are now, I'm sorry. I tried hard to cultivate a feeling of reverence for this place, really I did, and it just didn't happen. It's just another Pacific coastal forest with a lot of ferns and mosses.
Olympic National Park, WashingtonTrees, like this spruce, grow unusually large here compared to their counterparts further north, a result of the mild climate and three to four meters of rain a year.

Seattle gets a bum rap on rain - it gets frequent light rain but many U.S. cities get more. It doesn't help that the backdrop in every episode of Frasier shows rain running down the window. Seattle lies in the rain shadow of the Olympic Peninsula. The west side of the peninsula gets the really heavy rain. 

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Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: although the epiphytes will grow on anything - conifers, deciduous trees, slow moving tourists - they are best seen on deciduous trees like maples whose horizontal branches display them better.

Although the forest looks like it's in the last stages of decay, the trees are perfectly healthy. The epiphytes use the trees only for support and are not parasites.

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Olympic National Park, WashingtonThe thin soils plus heavy rain mean that trees do not live extremely long here, typically 500 years or so. When trees come down they soon provide a foundation for new growth.
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonAn older fallen trunk, over 60 meters long.
Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: fallen trees provide a foundation for young trees. When the fallen tree has completely disintegrated, its location is marked by a linear colonnade of trees. At left is a very young colonnade with the parent trunk still visible, below are more mature ones where the parent trunk has disappeared.
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: trees often have elevated pedestal roots, a relic of growing atop a fallen and now vanished trunk.
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonA particularly elaborate pedestal root system.
Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: a cut stump outside the park with young trees growing on it.
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Hoh to Port Angeles

Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: views of the Olympic Mountains
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonCrescent Lake

Below: Large landslide scar

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Olympic National Park, WashingtonCrescent Lake

Below: Olympic Mountains

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Hurricane Ridge

Olympic National Park, WashingtonHurricane Ridge, south of Port Angeles, offers one of the world's most spectacular mountain views.
Olympic National Park, WashingtonOlympic Mountains on the way up Hurricane Ridge. Below: the road offers spectacular panoramas of Puget Sound 

Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: Views of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: views of the Olympic Mountains
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Above: Panorama of the Olympic Mountains from Hurricane Ridge. I was reminded of the Swiss Alps.

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Olympic National Park, WashingtonSome of the numerous small glaciers in the Olympic Mountains.
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonView north from Hurricane Ridge to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonCoyote
Olympic National Park, WashingtonView east to Puget Sound and the Cascades
Olympic National Park, WashingtonSlates along the Hurricane Ridge Road
Olympic National Park, WashingtonThese are some of the youngest metamorphic rocks in the world, mostly late Tertiary in age.
Olympic National Park, WashingtonPillow basalts along the Hurricane Ridge Road
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Olympic National Park, WashingtonLeft and below: the Olympic Mountains from U.S. 101 east of Port Angeles.
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Created 14 July 2003, Last Update 01 July 2012

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