The Olympic Mountains are a range situated on the Olympic peninsula of western Washington State in the United States. They are a part of the Pacific Coast Ranges and run off as a circular, or horseshoe cluster of mountains at 47 degrees, 50 minutes North Latitude, and 123 degrees, 50 minutes West Longitude. That is from west of Puget Sound to the south of Juan de Fuca. The highest peak of the rage is the eponymous Mount Olympus at 7,962 feet (2,428 meters) and there are other peaks that exceed 7,000 feet like Mounts Anderson and Deception. The mountains have around 60 glaciers and the westerly wind from the Pacific produces heavy annual rainfall on the western slopes (more than 4,000 millimeters or 160 inches). This makes the region the wettest place in the U.S. and has resulted in the formation of picturesque rainforests in the foothills of the mountains dotted with Douglas fir, bigleaf maple, Sitka spruce, and red cedar.
The Olympic Mountains Eco-region
The Olympic Mountains were formed circa 35 million years ago when the Juan de Fuca plate collided with and subducted under the North American plate, scraping off vast stretches of rock on the continent as it went beneath. The original dome that was formed was sculpted by glaciers and streams, creating valleys and lakes between rugged peaks. Mount Olympus was named by English voyager John Meares because it seemed like a place fit for the gods. Most of the mountains lie within the Olympic National Park, which was established in 1938 for conservation of the forests, the wildlife and recreation. Within the park lies the Olympic National Forest, used mainly for timber production and recreation. In 1981, UNESCO designated Mount Olympus as a World Heritage Site.
The protected Olympic wilderness is home to a large variety of flora and fauna, many of whom are endemic to the region. Scattered below the towering coniferous trees are exotic sounding plants like Mountain milkvetch, Piper's bellflower, Spotted coralroot, Flett's violet, Thompson's wandering fleabane, Quinault fawn lily, rockmat, groundsel, cut-leaf synthyris, dandelion and Olympic violet. Various animal species thrive in the Olympic National Park, 16 of which are endemic. Mammals include marmot, chipmunk, snow mole, Mazama pocket gopher and ermine. Torrent salamander is the lone native amphibian in the region. The lakes and streams of the park are home to a variety of native fish like the mudminnow, the Beardslee rainbow trout, and the Crescenti cutthroat trout. Species that occur in the Olympics as well as nearby include Cope’s giant salamander, Van Dyke’s salamander, the tailed frog, and the mountain beaver.
Rich Natural Habitats
The Olympic Mountains have a long history of interaction with mankind. For the native Indians, the highest peaks of the range were the only refuge during the great floods. The Thunderbird of the Hoh tribe lived on Mt. Olympus under Blue Glacier. Today, the range is the focal point of an abundant ecosystem, which is isolated, yet an integral natural resource of the United States. Citizens can explore the habitats by mountain climbing, sailing, hiking, and picnicking.