Olympic Mountains

Olympic Mountains

Olympic Mountains, highest part of the Coast Ranges, on the Olympic Peninsula, NW Wash. Mt. Olympus (7,965 ft/2,427 m) is the highest point in the mountains, which are composed mainly of sedimentary rock. The western side of the mountains is in one of the areas of greatest precipitation in the United States, with an annual rainfall of c.130 in. (330 cm); the northeast side, in the rain shadow, is in one of the driest areas on the West Coast. On the upper slopes are about 60 small glaciers fed by heavy winter snows. The greater part of the Olympic Mts. is included in Olympic National Park, 922,651 acres (373,674 hectares). Proclaimed as Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909, it was established as a national park in 1938. Rugged mountains, alpine meadows, coniferous rain forests, glaciers, lakes, and streams characterize this area. The national park includes a 50-mi (80-km) stretch of scenic Pacific shoreline that contains wildlife sanctuaries. See National Parks and Monuments (table).
The Olympic Mountains are a mountain range on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington in the United States. The mountains are not especially high - Mount Olympus is the highest at - but the western slopes of the Olympics face the Pacific Ocean and are thus the wettest place in the 48 contiguous states; the Hoh Ranger Station in the Hoh Rain Forest records an average of 360 cm (142 in) of rainfall each year. Most of the mountains are protected within the bounds of the Olympic National Park. Physiographically, they are a section of the larger Pacific Border province, which in turn are part of the larger Pacific Mountain System physiographic division.

The mountains were originally called "Sun-a-do" by the Duwamish Indians, while the first European to see them, the Spanish navigator Juan Perez, named them "Sierra Nevada de Santa Rosalia", in 1774. But the English captain John Meares, seeing them in 1788, thought them beautiful enough for the gods to dwell there, and named them "Mount Olympus" after the one in Greece. Alternate proposals never caught on, and in 1864 the Seattle Weekly Gazette persuaded the government to make the present-day name official. Though readily visible from most parts of western Washington, the interior was almost entirely unexplored until the 1890s. Mount Olympus itself was not ascended until 1907, one of the first successes of The Mountaineers, which had been organized in Seattle just a few years earlier. A number of the more obscure and least-accessible peaks in the range weren't ascended until the 1970s.

The Olympics have the form of a cluster of steep-sided peaks surrounded by heavily-forested foothills and incised by deep valleys.

The climax forests consist of Sitka spruce and western hemlock. Douglas fir occurs in groves. Other types of firs may be seen also. Clearings in the forest quickly become covered with vine maple, slide alder, and devil's club, making cross-country travel most challenging.

Another consequence of the high precipitation is the large number of snowfields and glaciers, reaching down to 1,500 m (5,000 ft) above sea level.

The Mount Olympus National Monument was proclaimed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, and made into a park in 1938.

Principal summits:

Other Summits


The Olympic Mountains are made up of an obducted clastic wedge material and oceanic crust. They are primarily Eocene sandstones, turbidites, and basaltic oceanic crust(1).


(1). D.D. Alt, and D.W. Hyndman, 1984, Roadside Geology of Washington, p249-258

Further reading

External links

  • Interactive Map Server for the Olympic Mountains and Olympic Peninsula

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