Explore Stunning Lake Quinault Lodge and Rain Forest, Then and Now
The year was 1926. A. A. Milne’s children's book Winnie-the-Pooh was published in London. Gertrude "Trudy" Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel. U.S. Highway (Route) 66 was completed. Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States. The cost of a postage stamp was 2 cents. And Lake Quinault Lodge was built on the south shore of the lake that shares its name.
The Lodge—A Centuries-Old Legacy
There are some places so tranquil, so quiet, so removed from the modern world that they seem suspended in time. Lake Quinault Lodge is one such place. Constructed in the grand style of National Park lodges, the lodge offers rustic elegance and incredible scenery.
Historians tell us that as early as the 1880s, tourists gathered at the “Log Hotel”—a popular destination on the Olympic Peninsula for food, lodging, and socializing. But, in August 1924 (some accounts list the date as the 24th, and others the 28th of August), a fire erupted in the kitchen, and “Log Hotel” quickly burned to the ground.
Local supporters, with the financial backing of lumberman Ralph Emerson, planned an even bigger and better hotel. Robert Reamer, a Seattle architect, was called upon to design the new lodge. He crafted a rustic 1½ story structure reminiscent of the inn he had designed at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.
Rising Up From the Ashes
The area's finest artisans and craftsmen worked day and night, and on August 18, 1926, in a mere 53 days, the beautiful new Lake Quinault Lodge was unveiled.
The new lodge proved to be amazingly popular, and within just a few years an elaborate expansion was planned and carried out. The main building is now a 2½ story wooden-frame structure clad in cedar shingles. (The original 1½ story structure still exists and is part of the annex.)
A Plan for Preservation
On October 1, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the lodge during a fact-finding trip. The topic of establishing a park came up during lunch, and nine months later, Roosevelt signed a bill creating Olympic National Park.
The designation of National Park status ensures that this area will forever be preserved as a national treasure for visitors to enjoy. Lake Quinault Lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 9, 1998.
The Legacy Continues
A massive brick fireplace, plump, over-sized leather sofas, and ceiling beams decorated with Salish designs all contribute to the rustic warmth and ambiance that greets visitors once they enter the lobby. Although this grand lodge is quite different from its humble predecessor, it continues to offer the same hospitality as did the “Log Hotel.”
The Lodge Today
On all but the warmest of days, a fire crackles within the massive stone fireplace of the Great Room. The high-backed rocking chairs and large leather sofas beckon one to curl up with a good book or crossword puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles, chess, and checkers invite friendly competition. Within the lodge are a heated pool, sauna, and game room.
A wall of windows provides a spectacular view of the lake where one can fish, swim, or rent a paddleboat. Numerous hiking trails for all skill levels invite exploration of the surrounding forest. The expansive lawn that leads down to the lake’s edge is simply grand. Adirondack chairs dot the grass, inviting couples to sit down for an evening glass of wine, to stargaze on a clear night, or to simply decompress and absorb the sublime peace.
There is no television or internet access at the lodge, but why would one want them? All the entertainment one could desire surrounds you in this idyllic place.
Yes, It Rains There (a Lot)
Would it surprise you to learn that there is a rain forest in the state of Washington? Actually, there are four! The “rain” part should not come as a shock, but I will wager that when you think “rain forest” your thoughts go to lush, steamy, tropical jungles teeming with snakes and primates, wild cats, and magnificent floral displays. That, my friends, is a tropical rain forest. According to Wikipedia,
A tropical rain forest is an ecosystem type that occurs roughly within the latitudes 28 degrees north or south of the equator (in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn). This ecosystem experiences high average temperatures and a significant amount of rainfall. Rain forests can be found in Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico and on many of the Pacific, Caribbean, and Indian Ocean islands.
Tropical vs. Temperate Rain Forest Comparison
Tropical Rain Forest
Temperate Rain Forest
near the equator
around coastal areas
warm and moist
cool and moist
Diversity of plant and animal species
lesser here because of seasonal climate
Types of tree canopy
typically broad leaf species
typically needle-like evergreen
The Quinault Rain Forest is one of four temperate rain forests on the western side of Washington State; it completely surrounds Lake Quinault and Lake Quinault Lodge. Moisture comes in the form of rain, drizzle (yes, there is a difference), and fog.
Here, rainfall is measured in feet, not inches. The average is 10–15 feet (120–180 inches) of rainfall each year.
According to Smithsonianmag.com, it is possible to explore the Amazon tropical rain forest, and doing so might be worthy of an entry on one’s bucket list. The Amazon rain forest covers more than 2 million square miles and is home to a third of the world’s species (mostly plants and insects), but exploration is dangerous and professional guides are a must.
On the other hand . . .
- The Quinault Rain Forest is much smaller.
- It has many varied and interesting plant and animal species, but certainly not one-third of the world population.
However, what it does provide is accessibility. I have hiked throughout the forest many times; no guide is needed, and each time I am absolutely enchanted!
The Quinault Rain Forest is truly enchanting. Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedar dominate the canopy. These massive conifers share the forest floor with Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. Sunlight filters through the lush green dome, allowing the growth of an understory of big-leaf maple and alder.
Curtains of moss hang from every limb, and the forest floor is home to countless ferns. Indian-Plum, salmonberry, thimbleberry, blueberry, and wild blackberry bush offer soft pink blossoms for resident bees and hummingbirds in springtime, and succulent berries for birds and mammals in the summer. Like splatters of paint from an artist’s brush, bleeding heart, trillium, Indian paintbrush, mushrooms, and lichens add splashes of color to the green canvas.
Because of the moisture found even in the air of the rain forest, spider webs are outlined with dew and provide a delicate, lacy shroud to the forest’s bushes and trees.
The Quinault Rain Forest here is home to black bear, cougar, coyote, black-tailed deer, and many smaller mammals such as beaver, raccoon, bobcat, and river otter.
Don’t let the presence of wild cats or bears dissuade you from hiking in this area. Cougars are solitary animals and cat-human encounters are extremely rare. Black bears move about as a family unit, but they too are by nature fearful of humans. Berries, frogs, fish, and smaller mammals provide a varied and essential diet for their populations; their presence is needed to maintain a natural balance of species.
The Quinault Rain Forest is also home to several herds of Roosevelt Elk. The elk forage in open areas, keeping understory growth in check. The herds form family units and travel together as a community, sharing in the raising of their calves.
Numerous bird species also make the Quinault Forest their home. Bald and golden eagle, osprey, hawk, and blue heron can all be observed along the banks of the Quinault River and Quinault Lake.
The moist forest floor provides a perfect environment for a most unusual-looking gastropod mollusk—the Columbia banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus). Banana slugs are large (at least six inches in length) and often bright yellow (hence the banana sobriquet). Unlike their brown garden-pest cousins, banana slugs eat only decaying vegetation.
Lake Quinault Is Waiting for You
Lake Quinault Lodge is open year-round. In addition to the main lodge, there are also a fireplace and lakeside rooms with a more contemporary feel (televisions and large king- or queen-size beds suitable for families) and the boathouse rooms which welcome pets.
What do you need to bring? Some good walking/hiking shoes, of course, and a rain slicker (just in case). A walking stick would be nice to have (but not mandatory). Most of all, bring a desire to relax and a willingness to enjoy and embrace the beauty of a tranquil place set in the past but waiting for you today.
PBS (Public Broadcast System) Television Series—Lake Quinault Lodge
Questions & Answers
© 2015 Linda Lum