Most days, Instagram looks like the wild west of Leave No Trace Principles and proper stewardship rules in the wilderness. On nature pages across the app, scenes of rule breaking are shared and loved. Remote areas in the wilderness become shutterbug shrines, luring scores of outdoor enthusiasts. Birds are fed, signs are ignored and laws are broken. Typically, nothing happens to the photographer and/or the company.
Unless you are REI and got lectured publicly by Mount Rainier National Park.
As the year winds down, so do the number of individuals who head outdoors to Olympic National Park. What started as an endless onslaught of wilderness lovers flooding Washington State’s most popular National Park has slowly turned into a trickle. In November of 2015, when large retailers like REI encouraged everyone to #OptOutside, Olympic saw a 37.8% increase in visitation, with 104,297 people exploring and reconnecting with the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula. For the year, Olympic National Park has seen over three million people for the third consecutive year and the 17th time in the Park’s 77 history.
After what has felt like a decade’s worth of bad weather hitting us over the past seven days, the effects of the storms are continuing to wreak havoc on travel plans around Washington State and in our National Parks. Across the state, numerous roads are closed, with many more damaged and/or flooded. Rivers are flooding and spilling their banks, while waterfalls blast down like huge firehoses; the weather here has made the power of nature quite impressive. Sadly, while this weekend will be the ideal time to explore the wilderness of the region, sections of the most-popular National Park in the Pacific Northwest will be closed.
Things are looking up for the wolves of Yellowstone National Park!
Despite a handful of local ranchers poaching wolves that they view as dangerous to their way of life, the wolf population is thriving since they were nearly eradicated in the early 1900s until the 1990s. While once extremely rare to see, wolves have returned in full force to Yellowstone, helping boost tourism and awareness of threatened and endangered species for the 4+million visitors to the region each year. In a new study released by Yellowstone scientists, one of the largest numbers of wolves in modern history is currently roaming the hills, prairies and forests of America’s oldest National Park.
For the third straight month, Washington State’s most-visited National Park has seen a decrease in popularity. Despite the drop in visitation through October of 2015, for the year Olympic National Park did break the three million visitor mark for the third consecutive year and the 17th time in park history. While Olympic is a still too far from breaking their all-time record of 3,846,709 set in 1997, 2015 will go down as a slightly above average year popularity.
Understatement Alert: “It has been a wet November here in the Pacific Northwest.”
After last week’s storms, Western Washington is officially out of a drought, snow has returned to the mountains and the Paradise Fire in the Queets Rainforest has finally been extinguished. While winds brought down trees and knocked power out to thousands, downpours flooded river, washed away roads and even caused landslides all across Washington State. For most locals, November marked a return to normal. The cloudy days, the endless rain and the muddy trails all made us feel at home, once again comfortable being webbed-footed residents of the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, the rain and wind also caused serious damage to access points around Olympic National Park and Peninsula.
“It started on a dark and stormy night… and it ended on a darker and stormier night.”
It seems like this should have happened earlier, but the fire in the Queets River Valley of Olympic National Park has finally been extinguished. After nearly two feet of rain fell in the rainforests of Olympic National Park in just under 10 days, the Paradise Fire has ceased to be.
In late May of 2015, a rare thunderstorm moved above the Queets Rainforest. Sometime in the night, a flash of lighting jolted down, striking the forest floor below. Slowly smoldering the lightning strike say in one of the more desolate locales in Olympic National Park, slowly burning a log it had struck. For over a week, the small fire lay undetected before flaring up and becoming a real forest fire. The fire, known as the Paradise Fire, was spotted by plane during a flight on June 15th, 2015, by Olympic National Forest staff and reported to officials and first reported by Douglas Scott of The Outdoor Society. For over 170 days, the Paradise Fire in the Queets Rainforest of Olympic National Park burnt, before finally becoming fully extinguished in late November. The fire burnt over four miles of pristine and remote rainforest, and is the largest fire in Olympic National Park history.
Good news for everyone who overeats on Thanksgiving day! To help encourage people to get outside after the Thanksgiving, Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park are offering free entry to all who wish to visit these public lands. Called Green Friday at Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks, officials are excited to a help create new family traditions outside in wilderness.
As the Pacific Northwest recovers from last weekend’s storms and prepares for more wind and rain, we thought we’d take a few minutes and review just how impressive the last week has been weather wise. Before the storm, many scoffed at Olympic National Park closing sections around the nearly one million acre park. From the mountain tops to the ocean, and everything in between, the Olympic Peninsula in particular got blasted with an incredible storm lasting about 72 hours.
With a strong fall storm barreling down on the Pacific Northwest, the officials at Olympic National Park have decided to close six entrances to the park, and even close down a campground. With nearly a foot of rain expected to fall between Thursday and Saturday in and around Olympic National Park, visitors are urged to stay away from the entire region. This comes as a precautionary measure after a strong storm in late August of 2015 forced a closure and evacuation of many of the parks more popular areas. The closure will impact major areas of the park starting no later than 5pm on Thursday, November 12th.
Short Answer: Nope. Nature is unpredictable and people will ignore signs.
Long Answer: No, but they will be safer…kind of. Nothing is safe, and statistically speaking, your chances of being injured in a car accident on the way to the caves is much higher. However, the US Forest Service is working hard to make it as safe as possible.
On July 6th, 2015, one of Washington’s more popular day hikes, the Big Four Ice Caves in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, closed. The popular tourist and local destination was closed after the collapsing ice killed two individual, but it appears that the National Forest Service will try to reopen this popular destination in spring 2016, this time with more warning signs. At least that is what reports are saying.
This week has been a rollercoaster of emotions for the Elwha Region of Olympic National Park. The week started with an announcement that the incredibly popular Olympic Hot Springs would be closed due to a 61 year old man dying in one of the pools. Now, we get good news, as the Whiskey Bend Road has once again reopened to vehicle traffic. The road, which is 4.5 miles in length had been closed to access after a storm in late 2014 washed away a small section of the popular drive. With the opening of the Whiskey Bend Road in Olympic National Park, locals and wilderness lovers will once again have a short hike to stunning views like Goblin’s Gate, Michael and Humes Ranches, and of course, the stunning Dodger Point Bridge spanning the mighty Elwha River.
On Monday, a body was discovered in the Olympic Hot Springs in the Elwha Region of Olympic National Park. The discovery forced the closure of the hot spring areas of one of America’s most popular National Parks. The news is sad, as it appears the 61 year old deceased man from Silverdale, WA died from natural causes. Because the body was discovered in the hot springs, Park officials have decided to close the pools for health and safety concerns.
The Elwha Region is already mostly closed to access due to the repairs of the Whiskey Bend Road leading to some of the best hikes in the area. With the closure of the Hot Springs, the Elwha might be a place to skip for a few weeks until things return to normal.
As summer officially ended, visitation numbers in Olympic National Park continued their slowing trend, reflecting a bit of burnout and fatigue from the impact of an endless summer. While the park didn’t quite break the three million visitor mark, seeing 2,950,225 through the first nine months of 2015, the sharp decrease in visitors was not as bad as last month. Total visitation to the park was nearly even compared the numbers from 2014, when 2,948,304 visitors came to Olympic in the first three quarters of the year. In September of this year, 391,895 visitors were counted entering Olympic National Park, down from 394,495 during the same month in 2014.
The Olympic Hot Springs Road will soon reopen!
Changes in access are coming to the Elwha Region of Olympic National Park are starting on October 10th, and like most everything, there is both good and bad news. The bad news is for the Whiskey Bend Road. The Whiskey Bend Road, which leads trails that pass by old cabins, incredible gorges and stunning river views of the Elwha River has been closed to cars since late 2014, when a storm washed away a large section of the road. The region had been open to hikers, bikers and backpackers, but starting October 12th, it will be closed for repairs which will take five weeks or longer.
Love is in the air for the Roosevelt Elk in Olympic National Park, meaning the the fall elk rut is upon us. As the rain starts to fall and the leaves transition from green to orange, male elk, known as bulls, get quite excited. During this time, male elk attempt to become the dominant elk in the region, hoping for their chance to win and mate with their harem. During the rut, the local elk will bugle as a mating call, which can also attract other males in the region to battle for dominance. Because of the aggressive, mating, bull elk, the Hoh Rainforest Campground in Olympic National Park will be closed until the end of October, 2015.
The numbers for Total Recreation visits through August, 2015 are in, and they come as quite a shock. Despite the long summer and the incredible weather, visitation for Olympic National Park has dropped in August, a usually peak month for tourism. Some say it dropped because of the wildfires and burn bans ruining camping trips. Others think that numbers are low because summer started in the Pacific Northwest in April, or maybe coincided with back to school apprehension and the start of Seahawks football. The numbers are likely also down because of a wind storm that closed sections of the park during the last weekend of August. For whatever reason, less people visited Olympic National Park in August of 2015 than in August of 2014. With other National Parks seeing an increase in tourism and having record years, it appears Olympic National Park is in danger of losing its place as one of America’s most-visted National Parks.