Olympic Peninsula Proposed Wilderness Additions

After decades of grassroots support, the landmark 1984 Washington State Wilderness Act protected some of the most spectacular wild areas in Olympic National Forest. However, many key lower elevation forest lands remain unprotected. These areas offer year-round recreation opportunities, provide clean water, and produce critical habitat for fish and wildlife.

Map of Proposed Wilderness

Selected Examples of Wilderness Candidates

Places like South Quinault Ridge, the Upper South Fork Skokomish River, Jupiter Ridge, and Dirty Face Ridge still await permanent protection. Designating our last unprotected, wild forests as wilderness permanently preserves them in their natural state for future generations to enjoy. Hunting, fishing, horsepacking, camping, hiking, paddling, berry picking, backpacking, snowshoeing, birding and a wide range of other non-mechanized recreational activities are allowed in National Forest wilderness areas. Below are more details about the areas being proposed for wilderness protection on Olympic National Forest.

Quillayute Watershed

Upstream from their dramatic entrance into the Pacific Ocean, the major Olympic Peninsula Rivers of the Sol Duc, Bogachiel, Calawah and Sitkum merge to form the mighty Quillayute River. The vast Quillayute watershed sustains some of the healthiest populations of salmonid species remaining on the west coast of the continental United States.

  • The Elk-Reade area is an old growth reservoir of inestimable ecological value. Tree species in this area include large western hemlock and Sitka spruce, merging with Douglas-fir and Pacific silver fir at slightly higher elevations. Huge western cedars occur sporadically.
  • The Lost Creek watershed exhibits a rain forest environment every bit as marvelous as that is found in the Quinault country farther south. The Lost Creek section is immediately adjacent to the Olympic National Park Olympic Wilderness. A Wilderness designation would permanently protect these incredible forests which do not currently have even administrative protection under the Roadless Rule.
  • Characterized by deep old growth forest, the Rugged Ridge area is almost entirely within the Rugged Ridge Inventoried Roadless Area and is a contiguous extension of one of the wildest forested reaches of Olympic National Park.

Gates of the Elwha

Just outside Olympic National Park, two intact forest stands within Olympic National Forest flank the Elwha River before it tumbles down through state and private land on its way to its final destination – the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

  • Madison Creek – Located just a short drive from Port Angeles (less than 10 miles), the Madison Creek area would be one of the closer wilderness areas to a municipal population on the entire Olympic Peninsula. For those adventurous souls, this area offers a backcountry route to McDonald Mountain.
  • The Proposed Wilderness around Mt Baldy would protect headwaters that feed streams and tributaries of the Elwha River from which the City of Port Angeles derives their clean and safe drinking water supply.

Buckhorn Wilderness Additions

The existing Buckhorn Wilderness, designated in 1984, includes the headwaters for major watersheds including the Gray Wolf, Dungeness, Big Quilcene and Dosewallips Rivers. The Buckhorn Wilderness is divided into two separate units – north and south and the proposed wilderness areas, if enacted, would add key lower elevation wild lands and join the two current Buckhorn units.

  • Along the Lower Gray Wolf and Middle Dungeness can be found stunning rain-shadow old growth forest proving a perfect companion for the tumbling river. There are few places more worthy of wilderness protection than this stunning forest and river watershed.
  • The four-mile Little Quilcene/Dirty Face Ridge Trail (#835) is best known for its here-to-forever views of the Olympic rain shadow peaks and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, as well its connection with the ever popular Mount Townsend Trail (#839).
  • The Proposed Wilderness on the slopes of Hamilton Mountain would protect headwaters that feed streams and tributaries of the Big Quilcene River from which the City of Port Townsend derives a portion of their clean and safe drinking water supply.

Green Mountain

Bounded by the Big and Little Quilcene Rivers, Green Mountain is the closest large unroaded forest on the Olympic Peninsula to the population center of central Puget Sound.

  • Green Mountain is noted for its high eastern slope that serves as a scenic view for western Washington residents from Quilcene to Seattle.
  • Almost the entire Proposed Wilderness unit is within the Green Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area. The area provides habitat for Roosevelt Elk, cougar, black tailed deer, black bear.

The Brothers Wilderness Additions

The Brothers Wilderness contains the eastern face of its namesake peak – the most easily recognizable Olympic Peak from Puget Sound. The Proposed Wilderness includes lower elevation forests adjacent to the existing wilderness.

  • The Jupiter Ridge Trail (#809) offers backpacking, fishing, day hiking, scenery, and camping, but currently only the final two miles of the trail are on protected land.
  • The Duckabush River is prized by fisherman and its fishing holes and ripples are a popular destination for locals and traveling fisherman alike. Fishing along the Dosewallips River remains a favorite activity for many.
  • The Lower Lena Lake Trail (#810) is hiked in three out of four seasons by a broad cross-section of users, from experienced backpackers to novices on their first wilderness excursion.

Skokomish Wilderness Additions

The Proposed Wilderness includes some of the highest peaks in this region including the stern slopes of Jefferson Peak, Mount Pershing, Mt. Washington, Mt. Ellinor, most fully visible from Puget Sound as the southernmost representatives of the Olympic Skyline.

  • Seen from above, the Hamma Hamma River Valley is a glacier-carved masterpiece with its graceful sweep from bottomland to ridge tops.
  • The Proposed Wilderness would protect the upper reaches of Jefferson Creek as well as Washington Creek, both tributaries of the Hamma Hamma River and key watersheds for protecting fish habitat downstream.

Wonder Mountain Wilderness Additions

Draining the southeastern Olympic Mountains, the Skokomish watershed is comprised mainly of two streams – the North and South Forks of the Skokomish River. The South Fork remains free flowing from its origin in Olympic National Park to its outlet into Hood Canal.

  • The Dry Creek Trail (#872) provides a hike through a classic southeastern Olympic old growth forest of Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and Hemlock.
  • A walk on the Church Creek Trail (#871) offers an immediate glimpse into an ancient forest of Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Hemlock that once were prevalent in the Skokomish watershed. The trail also provides access to the lovely swimming hole of Upper Satsop Lake and along the way offers a glimpse into centuries old forests that used to drape this watershed.
  • The remote Lightning Peak looms to the east, while the densely forested slopes surrounding Chapel Peak are connected to the south. The picture-perfect Discovery Lake to the west rounds out this incomparable place.

Moonlight Dome

Between the bottomlands of the West and East Fork Humptulips Rivers rise Stovepipe Mountain and the forested slopes of what has been named Moonlight Dome.

  • The Moonlight Dome region is second only to its famous South Quinault Ridge cousin for containing extensive stands of rain forest old growth without full protection.
  • The Campbell Tree Grove Campground near-by is a spectacular family friendly destination tucked into grove of ancient Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock.

South Quinault Ridge

South of the vacation mecca Lake Quinault is the South Quinault Ridge, home to the most impressive example of unprotected temperate rain forest in the lower 48 states.

  • This remarkable place is home to one of the most extensive block of ancient rain forest not already protected by wilderness designation in the lower 48 states,
  • Huge Douglas-fir and western red cedar trees are numerous, sometimes topping out at 300 feet and supporting girths of nine feet or more. Big Sitka spruce adds another dimension of character to the old forest.
  • The Quinault watershed is a critical habitat with populations of bull trout, chum, coho, fall and spring chinook, sockeye, and both summer/winter steelhead.
  • A Research Natural Area of 1,340 acres is located along the flats of the South Quinault Ridge region, where the ancient rain forest reaches its ecological peak.

Queets Watershed

The mighty Queets originates in the heart of the Olympic Mountains within Olympic National Park before tumbling down through forested valleys and ultimately reaching the Pacific Ocean. Two major tributaries, the Sams River and Matheny Creek both flow through a mix of remnant old growth forests and areas that have been the focus of significant restoration efforts by the Forest Service and Tribe.

  • Both the Sams and especially Matheny Creek are prized destinations for whitewater kayakers.
  • The Canoe Creek area represents a forgotten unroaded and mostly old-growth forest which is adjacent to the Olympic National Park Wilderness.