Homesteaders and Early People

Archived from:

Cultural Resources

Historic structures, cultural landscapes, traditional cultural properties, archeological sites, and historic objects are part of our heritage, the last examples of bygone times, families, and individuals. They serve both as commemorative sites for local communities and as interpretive places for visitors. In parks, many of these sites are elements in the development of a conservation ethic. Preserving surviving historic structures and landscapes is a tangible means of preserving the history of the exploration, settlement and development of the area. Cultural resources are a significant element of Olympic National Park and their protection is a basic park responsibility. Regulations and guidelines for management of these resources are found in the National Historic Preservation Act, Cultural Resource Management Guidelines (NPS-28), and other documents.

Prehistoric People

The Olympic Peninsula has had the potential for human occupation since the last glacial retreat over 12,500 BP (years before present). Materials from the Manis Mastodon site in Sequim suggest human occupation as early as 12,000 years ago. These first people were hunters of mastodon, bison and caribou. They were followed (10,000- 3,000 BP) by Olcutt hunters and gatherers who hunted deer and elk and left spearpoints and scrapers behind on ridges and peaks. As populations increased, occupation along lower rivers or lakes, like Lake Ozette and the Hoko River, increased. The Late Prehistoric (3,000-200 BP) is typified by thick coastal shell middens and full- fledged maritime collecting, including the hunting of seals and whales. The diversity of resource use can be seen at archeological sites along the coast.


Interior exploration and settlement along rivers in the mid-1800s meant people began constructing shelters and homes. Early pioneers explored, hunted, and constructed cabins in areas now in the park. Early homesteaders struggled to clear dense forest to establish claims. Evidence of these efforts survives as structures and landscapes in places such as the Quinault and Queets. Early mining, lumbering and recreational structures reflect early commerce on the Peninsula.

Managing The Land

Establishment of the Olympic Forest Reserve in 1897 was an early attempt to manage and protect public lands. The Forest Service later constructed ranger stations and a trail, telephone, and shelter system for patrol and fire suppression. During World War II the military used Forest Service lookouts to watch for enemy air traffic, and lookouts were constructed along the coast to warn of a marine invasion.
The National Park Service came on the scene in the 1930s. Depression-era employment programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Ad ministration, and Works Progress Ad ministration, constructed administrative buildings, staff housing, and maintenance facilities for the park.

Traditional Cultural Sites

Peninsula tribes have lived along the coast and rivers for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Such stability leads to a deep cultural attachment to the Peninsula's geography. Cultural resources associated with tribal groups can include Traditional Cultural Properties which can be geographic formations or natural resources eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Their significance is based on beliefs, customs, and practices rooted in history. For example, some sites are associated with origin places or events for a particular tribe.
Others are bathing and cleansing areas important in purification rituals. Places of tribal religious significance within the park are addressed in the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The traditions and beliefs of local tribes add a cultural realm to the natural magnificence of Olympic National Park and make it that much more valuable to protect for future generations.

Historic Zones

Cultural resources are found throughout the park from its mountain peaks and alpine meadows down to its river valleys and coastal shoreline. By 1995, 112 cultural landscapes, 104 historic structures, 739 historic archeological sites, 79 prehistoric sites, and 43 traditional cultural properties had been identified in the park. In five cases clustered resources are managed as historic zones.

Elder Bob's site button

search site button spacer TRAIL REVIEW button spacer MAIN MENU button spacer SITE MAP button