Douglas Scott | Feb 21st, 2018

Happy 121st Birthday, Olympic National Forest!

Happy Birthday, Olympic National Forest!

From the stunning mountain tops overlooking dense forests to wild and scenic rivers, breathtaking waterfalls and endless amounts of adventure, Olympic National Forest has been captivating the region’s outdoor dreams for twelve decades. We hope you have another 121 years of helping preserve and protect this stunning landscape for all to enjoy and thank you for all you have done. 

On his way out of office in 1897, President Grover Cleveland signed a small document that would forever change the course of outdoor recreation in the Pacific Northwest. As one of his last actions as President (he left office on March 4th, 1897) he created what was known as the Olympic Forest Reserve on February 22nd. Placing 2,188,800 acres, which was nearly two thirds of the Olympic Peninsula, under government control, the creation of the Olympic Forest Reserve was later renamed Olympic National Forest and was the forerunner of Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909, which became Olympic National Park in 1938. Because of this act, we now are still able to experience true wilderness and enjoy the rugged beauty of the Olympic Peninsula.

The action to create the Olympic Reserve wasn’t incredibly popular, as the protection of the land was viewed as an action that many around the country believed would “sabotage the system that made this county great.” Sound familiar? The action was made possible by the Act of 1891, which had been tweaked at the last minute by conservationists. The act allowed the President to “set apart and reserve … any part of the public lands wholly or in part covered with timber or undergrowth, whether of commercial value or not, as public reservations.” This bill was passed during the great push toward conservationalism, greatly inspired by naturalist John Muir. Muir helped spearhead the notion that lands needed to be protected in their natural state, highlighting the fact that the huge forests of the West were being logged and cleared faster than they grew.

Once the Olympic Forest Reserve was established, it quickly came under attack by the other side of the aisle. In 1900 and 1901, President William McKinley used his powers to reduce the size of the reserve by 3/4 of a million acres. The reduction in size was to help facilitate farming on the Peninsula, but the timber industry acted quickly and started logging the areas no longer protected. The conservationist movement wasn’t deterred by McKinley’s action, fighting for lasting protection in the forested river valleys of the Olympic Peninsula. Because of their hard work and dedication to fighting for land protection, Mount Olympus National Monument was created in 1909, later becoming Olympic National Park in 1938. The wilderness act of 1964 helped solidify the region’s protection, which is once again under attack by Congress. In 120 years, not much has changed.

Today, Olympic National Forest encompasses 628,115 acres, surrounding Olympic National Park with five wilderness regions and some of the best hiking in the Pacific Northwest. There is a push to create more areas of designated wilderness in Olympic National Forest through the Wild Olympic Campaign, which would help hunters, fishermen, kayakers, hikers, bikers and backpackers explore and enjoy the rugged and breathtaking wilderness. Each year, millions visit Olympic National Forest, enjoying the 301 miles of trails, 17 front country campsites and three historic rental cabins. With an estimated 266,800 acres of old growth forests, we are lucky that the land now known as Olympic National Forest was protected 120 years ago.

This year, make sure you had out and enjoy the beauty of Olympic National Forest. From the amazing views atop Mount Ellinor and Colonel Bob Peak, the roaring waters of the many waterfalls in the region, to the tranquil sounds and scenes along the Hamma Hamma, Duckabush, Bogachiel, Olympic needs to be experienced, enjoyed and protected for future generations. Please support the Wild Olympics campaign, contact your elected officials and continue to fight to save these incredible Public Lands. We need to all unite and fight, just like the conservationists did over a century ago.

In the everlasting words of Woody Guthrie:

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.


Discover a Hike a Week through Doug Scott’s Olympic National Park Area Guidebook

Finally filling the void of stunningly beautiful and informational guidebooks, 52 Olympic Peninsula Hikes is the inspirational, locally written guide for which you have been searching.
Click here for more information