The Wa’atch River is on the Olympic Peninsula and flows north for several miles through the Makah Reservation to where it joins with Educket Creek near Neah Bay, and then flows southwest to Makah Bay, about 4.4 miles (7 km) southeast of Cape Flattery and 3.3 miles (5.3 km) southwest of Neah Bay, Washington. The name “Wa’atch” comes from the ancient Makah village name and means “bundling up cedar to make a torch”.
The Makah Reservation is located on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. The northern boundary of the reservation is the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the western boundary is the Pacific Ocean. The largest community on the reservation is Neah Bay. The Makah have inhabited Cape Flattery for millennia, and in 1805, they numbered 2,000 according to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Makah are the southernmost of the Wakashan linguistic group, and the only member of this family living within the current boundaries of the United States. Other bands of the same group are First Nations peoples on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. In 1855, the Makah ceded all their lands to the United States except a small area on Cape Flattery that was set aside as a reservation. Today, most of the 1,600 Makah in the United States live on the Makah Reservation in Neah Bay where the main tribal income is derived from forestry.
The Makah Air Force Station is located near the mouth of the Wa’atch River. The station was one of 28 built as part of the Air Defense Command radar network during the Cold War. The land for this site was leased from the Makah Indian tribe. In 1988, the station was deactivated and the Air Force closed most facilities. The radar facility was turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration and today the site is part of the Joint Surveillance System, Western Air Defense Sector. The remaining facilities at the station were turned over to the Makah people for use as the Makah Tribal Council Center. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Wa’atch River here: