Pysht River, Strait of Juan de Fuca

Pysht River, Strait of Juan de Fuca

by | May 21, 2019

The Pysht River originates near Ellis Mountain on the Olympic Peninsula and flows generally north for 16 miles (26 km) to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington. The name of the Pysht River likely comes from the Salishan language “pəšc’t”, perhaps meaning “against the wind or current”. The watershed of the Pysht River drains a region of industrial forest lands.

In the early 1880s, homesteaders claimed land along the fertile deltas of the Pysht River. The forests of the lower Pysht River watershed featured large-diameter stands of Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar. In 1886, the logging company Merrill & Ring first acquired land rights at Pysht. World War I created a demand for spruce to build airplanes and Merrill & Ring responded to the demand in the Pysht area. The logging boom continued after the war and in the 1920s the Klallam village of Pysht was demolished to build a lumber mill and employee housing. Pysht became an industrial port for the timber-cutting industry, with logging, lumbering, and rail facilities established. Today nearly the entire basin is subject to repeated logging and most trees are less than thirty years old.

The Pysht River supports nine species of freshwater fish with five salmonid species including Chinook salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, sea-run coastal cutthroat trout, and steelhead. Historically the salmon runs were robust, but all have declined due to habitat degradation. The Pysht River habitat and floodplain have been altered by road and railroad construction, erosion protection, channel relocation, logging, in-channel wood removal, dredging, homesteading, agricultural development, wetland filling, and rural development. The river was channelized to facilitate the transport of logs along the lower river and estuary. Dredging was routinely carried out on the lower river and the dredge spoils were reportedly dumped into the estuary’s tidal wetlands for the purpose of agricultural development. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Pysht River here:

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