Location and natural environment | Washington


The State Experimental Olympic Forest (OESF) is located in the western Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, between the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north, and the high peaks of the Olympic mountains to the east. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages approximately 270,000 acres of state-owned land within OESF boundaries. See a map of the surrounding area.

Rugged and rainy

Rugged woodpecker in the FSO

ESFO is a steep and hilly place. State-owned land has an elevation ranging from sea level to 1,066 meters (3,500 feet).

The climate in OESF is influenced by the Pacific Ocean. At medium and low altitudes, temperatures are mild, snow is scarce and precipitation is high. Temperatures in the town of Forks range from about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) in winter to about 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) in summer. The rains fall mainly between October and May, and totals can range from about 72 to 180 inches (1.8 to 4.6 meters) per year.

Heavy rains and mild temperatures support temperate rainforests in which young trees can grow 4 feet (1.2 meters) in a year. Common tree species on state trust lands include Douglas-fir, Western hemlock, and Sitka spruce. Red alder and red cedar grow in wetter areas at lower elevations. These types of forests are home to a wide range of wildlife, including northern spotted owls, marbled murres, deer, elk, black bears, and many more.

With so much rain, forest fires are rare. The main types of natural disturbance are landslides and wind damage from powerful storms that cross the Pacific Ocean in the fall and winter.

The OESF includes many streams and rivers. Wetlands, including peatlands, are common at the bottom of river valleys. FEEO streams and rivers support returns of several species of salmon and trout and non-game species, such as lampreys, minnows, suckers and sculpins.


In the mountains and forests of the Olympic Peninsula, MNR manages trails and a network of campgrounds that provide access to the river or lake for boating, fishing and other water activities. MNR also manages Natural Resource Conservation Areas, which provide the opportunity for low impact recreation such as hiking and bird watching. Visit the Forests of the Olympic Peninsula page for more information on recreational opportunities.


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