Giant driftwood logs near Kalaloch Lodge form sculptures in the golden light of sunrise.

Olympic National Park History

For thousands of years, people have loved coming here. It's easy to see why.

The wonder of the Olympic Peninsula is how the beaches you comb and forest trails you walk have remained virtually untouched over the millennia. From prehistoric hunters to native fishermen to American and European homesteaders searching for gold and timber riches, only the most resourceful people have been able to call these wild lands home. In the mid-1800's, free land was offered to settlers determined enough to clear it, yet the rugged terrain kept their numbers in check.

In 1889, the Press Party, an expedition led by Lt. Joseph P. O'Neil and funded by the Seattle Press, barely survived one of the worst winters in Washington history as it explored the rugged interior of the Olympic Mountains. O'Neil was so awestruck by the landscape that he publicly advocated for the formation of a national park.

By the turn of the 20th century, these untapped resources and natural beauty started to draw wider attention. With concern mounting that the forests were being irresponsibly harvested, President Grover Cleveland designated the Olympic Forest Reserve in 1897. This protected trees, but not the elk that were being hunted to extinction for their valuable hides and incisor teeth, which were being used in watch fobs. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt designated part of the Reserve as Mount Olympic National Monument to preserve the elk.

Within a decade, however, the monument's acreage was cut in half, leaving much of the forest available for harvest. But the beauty of this place continued to captivate people - even presidents. Due in part to campaigning by a national conservation organization, President Franklin Roosevelt visited the Olympic National Monument and in 1938 signed an act establishing it as Olympic National Park. International recognition came in 1982 when UNESCO designated the Park as a World Heritage Site.

Now you can follow in the footsteps of ancient mastodon hunters, and the native tribes who lived along the coast. For this feeling of timeless beauty, this power of land and sea, makes Olympic National Park truly one of a kind.

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