Every river on the Olympic Peninsula is special and unique, inspiring experiences of unfathomable beauty and lifelong memories in the great outdoors. In the shadow of the Olympic Mountains, rain falls at an impressive rate, just a few inches short of literally raining its and dogs. Along Hood Canal, far from the popular regions of the Olympic Peninsula, a river plunges down toward the fjord of Washington State. From a pristine and remote lake, dropping 5,000 feet in 25 miles, the Duckabush carves a deep valley into the landscape, giving a home to ancient timber and spectacular scenery. Along this Wild and Scenic river, elk herds roam, black bears meander and outdoor recreation enthusiasts connect will unspoiled natural beauty. From stunning waterfalls and panoramic mountain views, to a picturesque river and breathtaking forests, the Duckabush has captured the spirit and soul of the Olympic Peninsula and is where solitude and seclusion can easily be found.
Known by the first occupiers of the land as “do-hi- boos,” the area we now call Duckabush is one of the hidden wonders of the Olympics. The trails in the Duckabush lead to wilderness completely untouched by humanity, save from the few dozen hikers who reach the secret destinations. Some say the trails up the Duckabush lead to the heart of the Olympics, leading up to a magical basin full of sweeping views and alpine lakes. Like a Shangri-La in the Olympics, the headwaters of the river is one of the last destinations that could offer spiritual enlightenment. From the lakes and melting glaciers, the waters flow, bringing down their energy and power to the lower elevations. Cascading down rapids, through box canyons and into the salty waters of Hood Canal, In other region of the country, they would be celebrated and fully protected.
Those exploring the Duckabush will find themselves spoiled with recreational opportunity. From rocky summits atop exposed ridge lines, to the quick flowing waters of the blue river, and the hillside and waterfalls in between, the Duckabush is an outdoor recreation enthusiasts dreamland. Paddlers will enjoy the rough, beautiful and wild waters of the Duckabush have a few incredible options. Exploring the Duckabush will gain you access to great rapids, box canyons and series seclusion in a stunning river. The longest and best route starts at the upper bridge along Forest Service Road 2515. Dropping in here gives you a 6.2 mile route that embodies the spirit of the river and allows for a deep connection to waters that most only see as they drive over it on Highway 101.
Hiking the trails, the dirt routes through the forests lead to underrated destinations, fun for all levels of adventurers. Most know the Duckabush for one of two trails. The first is the family-friendly, always stunning Murhut Falls Trail. Less than a mile in length, the easy to follow, rarely steep trail leads one of the prettiest double-tier waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest. Tucked deep in a valley that rarely receives direct sunlight, Murhut Falls is a breathtaking destination no matter what the season. What makes the falls great isn’t just the view from the lookout, but the exploration along Murhut Creek. Below the two tiers of Murhut, after a short scramble down the root-filled incline, Triple Falls pours over rock and downfall in breathtaking beauty. Like the rest of the Duckabush River region, an inconspicuous creek ends up becoming a memorable destination, enticing you to explore deeper into this mysterious valley.
Those hoping to take in the grandeur of the Duckabush need to head up to Mount Jupiter and enjoy the out of this world views from the craggy summit. 14.4 miles out and back the route to the stunning summit works its way through logged out forests in the proposed Wild Olympic, full of second growth forests and rhododendrons. Offering numerous views into the Duckabush Valley, the path eventually enters into the Brothers Wilderness before reaching the summit.
From the trail and summit, views of the Olympic’s Mount Constance and The Brothers rise nearby, while the Cascade volcanoes loom large across the Puget Sound. Mount Jupiter is amazing and is, by the, the best way to fully comprehend the size and scale of the Duckabush River Valley.
Lower down, along the carved out banks of the Duckabush, the Ranger Hole Trail is one more family-friendly destination along the river. Leading through a breathtaking second growth forest before reaching a rocky outcropping along, the trail is a prime example of what the area was, is and what it can be. As giant ferns rise toward the think trunks of cedars and firs, sections of this trail rival anything found in Olympic National Park. As you pass trees home to pileated woodpecker and work your way between paths created by elk herds, the majesty and wilderness feeling of the Duckabush overwhelms the soul. The bonus of this trail? You can stay at a Forest Service cabin right at the trailhead.
Once you have already seen the waterfalls in all four seasons, walked to Ranger Hole and stood atop Mount Jupiter, it is time you ascend upriver and discover the beauty of the interior of the Duckabush River Valley. For 16 miles, the Duckabush River Trail head upstream, leading to majestic destinations full of endless beauty, isolation and the purist wilderness in existence. The Duckabush River Trail is a prime example of a remote entrance to a National Park, taking hikers through proposed Wild Olympic lands, crossing into existing wilderness and eventually reaching the untouched beauty of Olympic National Park. Toward the headwaters, the trails become more rugged and wild, where elk, cougars and blackberry outnumber seasonal hikers. Heading up the ridges, toward the headwaters of the Duckabush, the trails eventually lead to a land that many consider the most sacred and spiritual parts of the Olympic Peninsula. The Duckabush grants access to this moving wilderness region, transforming an entire region into a spiritually fulfilling destination, worthy of protection and love.
The Duckabush is one of many rivers in the The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, reintroduced last year by U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer. The bill would permanently protect over 126,000 acres of new Wilderness areas in the Olympic National Forest, and 19 Olympic Peninsula rivers and their tributaries as Wild & Scenic Rivers – the first ever Wild & Scenic Rivers on the Peninsula. Designed through extensive community input to protect ancient forests, clean water, and enhance outdoor recreation, the Wild Olympics legislation has been endorsed by over 550 local businesses, sportsmen organizations, outdoor recreation groups, faith leaders, conservation groups and local elected officials; and more than 12,000 local residents have signed petitions in support. Sign the petition and help preserve these amazing lands.
This article was written by Douglas Scott. Through his numerous guidebooks, including the Definitive Guide to Olympic National Park and 52 Hikes Olympic Peninsula, the best trails and experiences in and around the Wild Olympics can be found. More information of Douglas and his work can be found at Outdoor-Society.com.