Tunnel Island, Raft River

Tunnel Island, Raft River

by | Oct 8, 2019

The Raft River is a stream located entirely within the Quinault Indian Reservation on the Olympic Peninsula and flows into the Pacific Ocean at Tunnel Island, about 9 miles (15 km) north of Taholah, Washington. Tunnel Island is named for a sea cave that runs through the island. A cluster of smaller stacks surround Tunnel Island, one of which is called Elephant Rock named for its arch and appearance of an elephant head, however, the “trunk” part of the arch collapsed in 2016.

The Raft River originates at the confluence of Crane Creek and Lunch Creek, which flow southwest from the Olympic Mountains. The Raft River flows west for about 11.5 mi (19 km), gathering tributaries such as the South Fork and North Fork Raft River, until emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Most of the Raft River’s drainage basin consists of low hills and plateaus that have been clear-cut in recent decades. The Raft River and its tributaries support chum and coho salmon, and a limited number of Chinook salmon. The river also supports bull trout and steelhead trout. Access to the Raft River estuary and beaches is not allowed to non-tribal members unless accompanied by a Tribal representative.

The rocks that make the islands and sea stacks at the mouth of the Raft River are part of the Quinault Formation, exposed between Cape Elizabeth and Point Grenville, that is more than 2,200 feet (680 m) thick and composed of conglomerates, shales, and some sandstone. Carbonized wood fragments are common in much of the sandstone, suggesting that when the materials were deposited millions of years ago a source of vegetation was nearby. Concretions, or relatively hard nodules, are scattered throughout, some of which are formed around fossils. The most common fossils are relatively large clams. Microscopic fossils are also common in the sandy siltstone strata exposed largely at low tide. The fossils indicate to paleontologists that the sediments of the containing rocks were deposited in the sea during an early part of the Pliocene Epoch, some 5 to 7 million years ago. Read more here and here. Explore more of Tunnel Island here:

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