Olympic Mountains

Coordinates: 47°50′N 123°50′W / 47.83°N 123.83°W / 47.83; -123.83

Olympic Mountains
Country United States
State Washington
Part of Pacific Coast Ranges
Highest point Mount Olympus
 - elevation 7,962 ft (2,427 m)
 - coordinates 47°48′04″N 123°42′39″W / 47.80111°N 123.71083°W / 47.80111; -123.71083

The Olympic Mountains is a mountain range on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington in the United States. The mountains, part of the Pacific Coast Ranges, are not especially high - Mount Olympus is the highest at 7,962 ft (2,427 m) - but the western slopes of the Olympics rise directly out of the Pacific Ocean and are the wettest place in the 48 contiguous states. On the wetter end of the spectrum, 140 and 170 inches (3,600 and 4,300 mm) of rain falls on the Hoh Rainforest annually.[1] Conversely, areas to the northeast of the mountains are located in a rain shadow and receive as little as 16 in (410 mm) of precipitation.[2] 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 is in turn a part of the larger Pacific Mountain System.



The Olympic Mountains in winter, as seen from the east. The Brothers is the large double peak on the left, and Mount Constance is on the right.

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. Due to high precipitation, 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. There are about 266 glaciers crowning the Olympics peaks. The most prominent glaciers are those on Mount Olympus covering approximately 10 square miles (26 km2). Beyond the Olympic complex are the glaciers of Mount Carrie, the Bailey Range, Mount Christie, and Mount Anderson.[3]


The Olympics are made up of an obducted clastic wedge material and oceanic crust. They are primarily Eocene sandstones, turbidites, and basaltic oceanic crust.[4] Unlike the Cascades, the Olympic Mountains are not volcanic.

Millions of years ago, vents and fissures opened under the Pacific ocean and lava flowed forth, creating huge underwater mountains and ranges called seamounts. The plates that formed the ocean floor inched toward North America about 35 million years ago and most of the sea floor went beneath the continental land mass. Some of the sea floor, however, was scraped off and jammed against the mainland, creating the dome that was the forerunner of today's Olympics. Powerful forces fractured, folded, and over-turned rock formations, which helps explain the jumbled appearance of the Olympics.[3]

In the Pleistocene era, a vast continental ice sheet descended from Alaska south through British Columbia to the Olympics. The ice split into the Juan de Fuca and Puget ice lobes, as they encountered the resistant Olympic Mountains. A glacial outwash stream surged around the southern end of the peninsula to the Pacific Ocean. This isolated the Olympic Peninsula from the nearby Cascade Mountains and limited species from entering and exiting the peninsula. When the ice sheet reached the Peninsula, large areas of the continental shelf were also exposed by the lower sea levels since so much water was trapped as ice. This created a coastal refuge. The distance from Mount Olympus to the Pacific Ocean may have been double that of today.[3]


The Hoh Rainforest supports many trees and epiphytes.

The ecosystems of the Olympics vary depending on elevation: the lower elevations are quite different from the higher ones. The rain shadow effect also has a significant impact on the make up and character of the forest.

The low Olympics contains foothills and mountains and rises to an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet (1,200 m). Copious precipitation (up to 200 inches (5,000 mm) per year) supports a lush, epiphyte-rich rainforest of Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, and Douglas-fir. Much of the region is in the third rotation of logging. However, a portion of the region lies within the Olympic National Park and contains ancient forests.[5]

The high Olympics contains steep, glaciated mountains that reach an elevation of almost 8,000 feet (2,400 m). It is characterized by rock outcrops, tarns, persistent snow pack, alpine glaciers, and high-gradient, glacial-fed streams. Its vegetation includes subalpine Mountain Hemlock and Pacific Silver Fir forests as well as alpine meadows. Subalpine fir occurs on the xeric soils of northeastern rainshadow areas.[5]


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

List of summits

Mount Anderson as seen from the East Fork of the Quinault River

Principal summits:

Other Summits


  1. ^ "Visiting the Hoh Rainforest". U.S. National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-the-hoh.htm. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  2. ^ "SEQUIM 2 E, WASHINGTON Climate Summary". Western Regional Climate Center. http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?wa7544. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  3. ^ a b c "Olympic Mountains". USGS. http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Washington/OlympicMountains/description_olympic_mountains.html. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  4. ^ Alt, D.D.; Hyndman, D.W. (1984). Roadside Geology of Washington. pp. 249–259. ISBN 0878421602. 
  5. ^ a b  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Geological Survey document "Ecoregions of Western Washington and Oregon (color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs)" by Pater, David; Bryce, S.A.; Kagan, Jimmy; et al. (and the Reverse side).

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Olympic Mountains — 47°47′46″N 123°42′19″O / 47.79611, 123.70528 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Olympic Mountains — (Чезана Торинезе,Италия) Категория отеля: Адрес: Viale IV Novembre 35, 10054 Чеза …   Каталог отелей

  • Olympic Mountains —   [əʊ lɪmpɪk maʊntɪnz], Gebirge am Pazifik im Bundesstaat Washington, USA, erreicht im Mount Olympus 2 428 m über dem Meeresspiegel; durch hohe Niederschläge (über 2 500 mm im Jahr) in der Gipfelregion stark vergletschert, darunter dicht bewaldet …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Olympic Mountains — one of the Coast Ranges on Olympic Peninsula, NW Wash.: highest peak, Mt. Olympus …   English World dictionary

  • Olympic Mountains — p1p5 Olympic Mountains The Brothers vom Meer aus Höchster Gipfel Mount Olympus ( …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Olympic Mountains — Sp Olimpo kalna Ap Olympic Mountains L Pakrantės klng. dalis, JAV (Vašingtono v ja) …   Pasaulio vietovardžiai. Internetinė duomenų bazė

  • Olympic Mountains — a mountain system in NW Washington, part of the Coast Range. Highest peak, Mt. Olympus, 7954 ft. (2424 m). * * * Segment of the Pacific Coast Ranges, northwestern Washington, U.S. The mountains extend across the Olympic Peninsula south of the… …   Universalium

  • Olympic Mountains — geographical name mountains NW Washington in central Olympic Peninsula see Olympus (Mount) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Olympic Mountains — Olym′pic Moun′tains n. pl. geg a mountain system in NW Washington, part of the Coast Ranges. Highest peak, Mt. Olympus, 7954 ft. (2424 m) …   From formal English to slang

  • Olympic Mountains — /əlɪmpɪk ˈmaʊntənz/ (say uhlimpik mowntuhnz) plural noun a mountain range in the US, in north western Washington. Highest peak, Mt Olympus, 2424 m …   Australian English dictionary

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