Hoko River, Olympic Peninsula

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Hoko River, Olympic Peninsula

by | Mar 2, 2021

The Hoko River starts in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains and flows through a rugged heavily logged landscape for 25 miles (40 km) to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, about 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Neah Bay and 3.3 miles (5 km) northwest of Sekiu, Washington.  The Olympic Peninsula contains the Olympic Mountains and Olympic National Park and is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the east by Puget Sound. The name Hoko is of Makah origin and refers to the large projecting rock at the river mouth. The Hoko River is brushy and full of snags creating dark tannin-stained water. The river watershed supports Chinook, chum, coho, and winter steelhead, with over 48 miles (77 km) of spawning habitat. 

Historically, the Hoko watershed was a coniferous forest with a few patches of red alder. About 95% of the old-growth has been converted into commercially managed tree farms, and nearly all of the basin has been harvested at least once down to the streambanks. Riparian forests are now dominated by red alder. Channels are chronically depleted of large woody debris. The watershed is greatly impacted by a dense network of logging roads with hundreds of separate landslides associated with logging and clearcuts since the 1950s. About 500 acres (202 ha) along the lower mainstem are currently used for agriculture. The Lower Hoko also has several hundred acres of non-forested state parkland which is managed for wildlife and human uses. Water withdrawals for several communities results in low summer stream flows.

In spite of this, the Hoko River contains abundant spawning and potentially high quality fish habitat. A $1.2 million restoration project was completed between 1994-98. Restoration work included removing culverts, removing landfill that blocked access to salmon habitat on tributary streams, and removing log bridges that restricted streamflow. Eelgrass is still present in the estuary and provides essential fish habitat at the river mouth. Read more here and here. Explore more of Hoko River here:

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