Insider’s Guide to Olympic National Park: Timeline of Olympic National Park

By Julia Scherzinger July 22, 2011

25,000 to 10,000 BCE
A giant ice sheet covers and carves the northwestern United States. Mount Olympus still has the third largest glacial system in the continental U.S. today.

By 1,000 BCE
Early inhabitants of eight present-day native tribes fish in what will become the Olympic National Park.

July 1788
Brit John Meares names the peninsula’s highest peak Mount Olympus, after Zeus’s mythical pad.

Early 1880s
Theodore Moritz files a homestead claim on Sol Duc Hot Springs after a Quileute Indian man shows him the site. "Sol Duc" is a native term for "sparkling water."

September 22, 1890
Army Lieutenant Joseph P. O’Neil reports to Congress that the peninsula’s "interior is useless," recommending a national park.

Just 48 hours before leaving office,President Theodore Roosevelt designates more than 600,000 acres as the Mount Olympus National Monument.

Construction of the Elwha Dam begins and the Olympic Power Company is formed by Thomas Aldwell, who ignores the state law mandating fish passage devices on dams.

Lake Crescent Lodge is built in a booming resort area. The lodge still stands and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mountain goats are introduced to the Olympics by local sportsmen, who transported a dozen or so animals from British Columbia.

Glines Canyon Dam is built eight miles upstream from Elwha Dam, also without fish passages.

October 1, 1937
President Franklin D. Roosevelt visits the Mount Olympus National Monument and, despite seeing it in cloudy skies and rain, moves to make it a national park.

June 29, 1938
Congress declares 634,000 acres as Olympic National Park; the name barely beats out Elk National Park, after the resident Roosevelt elk population.

The Ozette Lake area and a strip of the coast is added to the park.

Just outside park boundaries, a farmer discovers the remains of a spear-killed mastodon, proving that the earliest native residents were ambitious hunters. 

January 3, 1992
The Elwha Restoration Act is signed, allowing for the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams.

January 28, 2008
Fishers, members of the weasel family, are successfully reintroduced to the park after being extinct there for 80 years.

October 16, 2010
An experienced hiker is gored and killed by a mountain goat on Klahhane Ridge, the first known visitor death from an animal attack; the goat is later shot by rangers.

September 2011
Removal of the Elwha River and Glines Canyon dams begins.

Updated August 22, 2011. Though Ozette Lake became part of Olympic National Park in 1953, FDR did not play a part, as our timeline of the park stated in the August 2011 issue; he died in 1945.

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