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MOUNTAINS :

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The Olympic Mountains are not very high -- Mount Olympus, the highest, is just under 8,000 feet -- but they rise almost from the water's edge and intercept moisture-rich air masses that move in from the Pacific. As this air is forced over the mountains, it cools and releases moisture in the form of rain or snow. At lower elevations rain nurtures the forests while at higher elevations snow adds to glacial masses that relentlessly carve the landscape.

Ice Age glacial sheets from the north carved out the Strait of Juan Fuca and Puget Sound, isolating the Olympics from nearby landmasses. Surrounded on three sides by water and still crowned by alpine glaciers, the Olympics retain the distinctive character that developed from their isolation.

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OCEAN :

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More than 60 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline form a vital component of Olympic National Park. This coastline has remained little changed except for the impact of the pounding surf and storms. It looks much as it did when American Indians built their villages thousands of years before European explorers arrived.

The coast is where the land meets the sea, vibrating with life and energy. Arches and sea stacks; the roar of crashing waves; the calls of gulls, bald eagles, and black oystercatchers; dramatic sunsets; the vastness of the ocean and a myriad of other elements impress themselves upon you.

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FOREST :

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There are four basic types of forests on the Olympic peninsula: Temperate rain forest, lowland, montane, and subalpine.

Temperate rain forest is found at low elevations along the Pacific Ocean coast and in the western-facing valleys of the peninsula where lots of rain, moderate temperatures, and summer fogs exist.

The lowland forest grows further inland from the coast, and above the rain forest valleys.

Gradually the lowland forest gives way to the montane forest.

As elevation increases, temperatures cool and more moisture falls as snow; growing seasons get shorter and the subalpine zone takes over.

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RAIN FOREST :

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Temperate rain forest is found at low elevations along the Pacific Ocean coast and in the western-facing valleys of the peninsula where lots of rain, moderate temperatures, and summer fogs exist.

What defines a rain forest quite simply is rain--lots of it. Precipitation here ranges from 140 to 167 inches -- 12 to 14 feet -- every year. The mountains to the east also protect the coastal areas from severe weather extremes. Seldom does the temperature drop below freezing in the rain forest and summertime highs rarely exceed 80 F.
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GLACIERS :

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Glacial ice is one of the foremost scenic and scientific values of Olympic National Park. There are about 266 glaciers crowning the Olympics peaks; most of them are quite small in contrast to the great rivers of ice in Alaska. The prominent glaciers are those on Mount Olympus covering approximately ten square miles. Beyond the Olympic complex are the glaciers of Mount Carrie, the Bailey Range, Mount Christie, and Mount Anderson.

True glaciers are structurally three layered bodies of frozen water. The top layer is snow; the middle neve, or mixed snow and ice; and the bottom layer is of pure ice, which is quite plastic in nature. Crevasses or deep cracks in the glaciers form as the ice is subjected to uneven flow over alpine terrain.

Access to the Olympic glaciers is by trails and cross country routes. The most visited glaciers in the Park are the Blue and Anderson. From the Hoh Rain Forest, the upriver Hoh River Trail leads eighteen miles up to the snout of Blue Glacier. Anderson Glacier can be reached by hiking the Dosewallips River Trail for eleven miles or from the west side by the East Fork of the Quinault River for sixteen miles. To visit the other glaciers requires more mountaineering knowledge and time.
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RIVERS :

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The west side of the Olympic Peninsula boasts world class rivers including the Hoh, Calawah, Sol Duc, Bogachiel and Quillayute. Nearly year-round runs of salmon and steelhead ply these rivers along with several species of trout.
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HOT SPRINGS :

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Several hot springs can be found in Olympic National Park, occurring on or near the Calawah fault zone. This presently inactive fault zone extends from the southeastern Olympics to the northwest and probably into the Pacific Ocean. One spring can be reached by walking along an old roadbed for 2.2 miles. Indian legend speaks of the origin of the Sol Duc and Olympic Hot Springs: Two "dragon-like creatures" (lightning fish) with a mutual hatred for one another engaged in a mighty and desperate battle. There was no victor as both were evenly matched. Admitting defeat each of the creatures crawled into their separate caves where they weep with tears of mortification.

Olympic Hot Springs : The Olympic Hot Springs consists of 21 seeps located in a bank on Boulder Creek, a tributary of the Elwha River. Several of these have been trapped by human-made rock lined depressions. The depth of these pools is about one foot and water temperatures vary from lukewarm to 138 degrees F (54 degrees C). The impounded pools frequently fail water quality standards for public bathing. Use at your own risk.

Sol Duc Hot Springs : The Quileute name for the hot springs is si'bi', stinky place. CLICK HERE TO GO TO SOL DUC HOT SPRINGS


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