Queets River, Olympic National Park and Preserve

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Queets River, Olympic National Park and Preserve

by | Dec 10, 2019

Queets River originates at the terminus of the Humes Glacier on the southeast side of Mount Olympus, and flows about 53 miles (85 km) to the Pacific Ocean near the community of Queets, about 46 miles (74 km) northwest of Aberdeen and 5 miles (8 km) south of Kalaloch, Washington. The river is also fed by Jeffers Glacier, and Queets Glacier, on the north side of Mount Queets. Nearly all of the river is within Olympic National Park, except for the last 4 miles (6.4 km) that are within the Quinault Indian reservation.

The Queets River is unusual in being a relatively large river flowing through a low-gradient heavily forested valley where no logging is permitted. The forests on the western side of the Olympic Mountains have one of the highest rates of biomass production per unit area in North America. Discharge rates in the winter can be very high, resulting in frequent log jams and new channels. The river is not kept clear of woody debris, making it one of the few North American rivers of its size in which large log jams are common.

According to Queets and Quinault legend, the river name comes from the legend of Kwate, the changer, or s’qitu, the Great Spirit and Transformer, who came to the mouth of the Queets River. After fording the cold river he rubbed his legs to restore circulation and small rolls of dirt formed under his hand. He threw them into the water and from them, a man and a woman came forth, who became the ancestors of the Queets people. Kwate told them they would remain on the river and would be known as K’witzqu, because of the dirt from which your skin was made. The word “Queets” was derived from the name of the Quai’tso tribe and first appeared on the Surveyor General’s map of the Washington Territory. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Queets River here:

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