Slip Point, Clallam Bay

Slip Point, Clallam Bay

by | Jan 15, 2022

Slip Point is located on the southern shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, at the eastern end of Clallam Bay, on the Olympic Peninsula about 39 miles (63 km) west-northwest of Port Angeles and 0.7 miles (1 km) northeast of the community of Clallam Bay, Washington. The point is named for the frequent landslides caused by a geological formation of fragmented rock clearly visible even from a distance. In 1791, the Spanish explorer Manuel Quimper named the feature Punta de Rojas, meaning Red Point, but like many names given by Spanish explorers, it was not generally adopted by subsequent British explorers. In 1904, a geological reconnaissance of the Olympic Peninsula was done by the U.S. Geological Survey and mentions Slip Point. The fragmented rock represents a steeply dipping sandstone layer near the contact between the Clallam Formation to the east and Pysht Formation to the west. The Pysht Formation was formed during the Oligocene and consists of gray to olive-gray massive mudstone, sand siltstone, with conglomerate and interbedded sandstone exposed as sea cliffs and wave-cut platforms. In Clallam Bay, the Pysht Formation is buried under alluvial deposits of the Clallam River. The Clallam Formation is from the Oligocene-Miocene and overlays the Eocene basalts and older rock of the Olympic Peninsula. The extensive formation consists of a series of conglomerates, sandstones, and shales rich in fossils and coal seams. The coal seams were discovered in 1862 by J.K. Thorndike, and in 1867 was mined by the Phoenix Coal Mining Company. The formation is sandstone and the coal seams were found to be from 12-100 feet (4-30 m) apart. The seams held some of the best coal found in the State of Washington. Mining was continued until a fault cut off the seams. The Clallam Formation is well exposed in the region between Clallam Bay and Pillar Point to the east. The sandstones are for the most part thin-bedded, hard and resistant to erosion, and are extremely fossiliferous east of Clallam Bay. The community of Clallam Bay is named after a bight at the mouth of the Clallam River about 2.2 miles (3.5 km) long between Slip Point to the east and Sekiu Point to the west. The bay is the site of an ancient village of the Klallam people.

Before the arrival of Europeans to the Pacific Northwest, the territory inhabited by the Klallam, a Coast Salish people, stretched across the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula, and there were also some Klallam living across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Vancouver Island. Their lifestyle was centered primarily around salmon fishing and since the Klallam lived along the ocean virtually all species of Pacific salmon were available to them either passing through the strait or spawning in the local streams. Trolling, netting, and spearing were particularly important fishing techniques while lattice weirs with single platforms were the most frequently used fish trap on the streams. The headman of a Klallam village owned the first and most productive weir on the local spawning stream. Like the Makah living to the west, the Klallam were warlike and their name is derived from ‘strong people’. The people of Puget Sound and southern Vancouver Island regarded the Klallam as especially fierce warriors and in every Klallam village tall poles were erected for the display of enemy heads Although most wars were fought for revenge, the Klallam like almost all the other clans north of the Columbia River occasionally conducted slave raids on neighboring villages or as far as Puget Sound. At the time of contact with Europeans in the early 19th century, there were thirteen Klallam winter villages scattered along the south shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Europeans first began to explore the Pacific Northwest coast with Juan Pérez in 1774, Captain James Cook in 1778, and many others followed, especially maritime fur traders. Captain Robert Gray reached Clallam Bay in 1789 and possibly traded with knives, buttons, and copper. Captain George Vancouver made contact with the Klallam in 1792 and was surprised by their indifference to Europeans. In 1855, the Klallam signed the Point No Point Treaty which required them to give up their land and move to the Skokomish Reservation in exchange for government aid in the form of rations and schools, however, the Klallam never made this move and remained in their territory. In the 1880s, Clallam Bay was a steamboat stop and the town of West Clallam (now Sekiu) was founded in 1870, by A.J. Martin who built a salmon cannery. The area boomed when a leather tanning extract was produced here by the Pacific Tanning Extract Company established in 1887. In 1893, demand for the tanning extract ceased and the newly unemployed turned to fishing and logging. In 1905, a light station was established with a long catwalk connecting the lighthouse and fog signal on Slip Point with the lightkeeper’s residence in Clallam Bay. In 1951, a skeleton tower replaced the original fog house and light tower and the facility was automated in 1977. Around 2000, this light was discontinued, replaced by a buoy to mark the point. The lightkeeper’s residence remains in Clallam Bay and is part of the Community Beach County Park.

The dense temperate old-growth rainforests on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula were largely ignored until a railroad line from the mills at Port Angeles began expanding to the west in the early 20th century. The introduction and extension of logging railroads removed the need to cut timber near large waterways. Initially many of these railways terminated at a log dump along the coast where the timber could be sorted, formed into rafts, and then towed to mills. Coastal communities like Clallam Bay developed quickly since the mouth of the Clallam River provided a suitable log dump. At roughly the same time, the timber industry was undergoing a revolution in logging methods and shifting to high-lead yarding. Combining the mechanical power generated by steam or diesel donkey engines with a system of cables and blocks rigged overhead among the trees in a tract of timber, high-lead yarding transformed logging on the peninsula by speeding up the pace with which an area could be logged and making it possible to harvest trees in areas such as steep ravines that had been inaccessible to more traditional logging methods. Then the industry experienced a series of booms beginning with World War I when the area was logged for spruce used in aircraft construction, and in the 1920s as the demand for pulp-wood increased, followed by sustained growth from World War II through the 1970s when a convergence of market demand and federal policies opened large tracts of public lands on the peninsula to logging. This era coincided with advances in technology, particularly high-lead yarding, the chainsaw, and the growing use of trucks made it possible to profitably log areas that in earlier years would have been bypassed. Today, virtually all of the old-growth forest in the Clallam River watershed has been clearcut, destroying most of the salmon spawning habitat in the process, and large stands of second-growth forest dominate the landscape. The Clallam River is over 15.7 miles (25.3 km) long and drains a watershed of 19,914 acres (8,059 ha). In 1952, a total of 21 historical log jams were removed from the Clallam River to improve fish passage. In 2011, the Western Strait of Juan de Fuca Habitat Conservation Plan was developed to identify and prioritize floodplain, riparian, and nearshore habitats that are important to salmon and steelhead productivity and survival. Read more here and here. Explore more of Slip Point and Clallam Bay here:

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