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FISHING HISTORY OF OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK




From Historic Resource Study 1983 Olympic National Park
By Gail E. H. Evans and T. Allan Comp
Cultural Resources Division
National Park Service

Recreational fishing was enjoyed by untold numbers of sport fishermen and hikers for decades. Stories of abundant trout, cutthroat and steelhead in streams and lakes throughout the Olympic Mountains appeared in sport and recreational magazines before 1900.

Lake Crescent gained early fame as a fisherman's paradise when unusually large and distinctively colored trout caught in the 300 foot waters of the lake were publicized in the mid 1890s. Admiral Leslie A. Beardslee, commander of the Pacific Squadron of the U.S. Navy, visited Lakes Crescent and Sutherland in 1895 while his fleet of ships anchored in the Port Angeles harbor. Beardslee was immortalized on this fishing trip after catching a total of sixty pounds of exceptionally large, blue-backed trout. It was Beardslee's account of his fish catch that prompted Stanford University ichthyologist, David Starr Jordan, to name this "new" subspecies of trout the "Beardslee trout" (PADN 1983a, 1 May).

Other scientists were attracted to Lake Crescent and before 1900 several species and subspecies of trout from the lake were identified. Ichthyologists published numerous accounts of Lake Crescent's trout which quickly reached popular sportsmens literature and attracted fish enthusiasts from distant eastern cities. The Beardslee trout mythology, however, has no doubt been the longest lived and most prevalent fish story associated with Lake Crescent (PADN 1983a, 1 May).

The widespread reputation of the distinctive blue-back Beardslee trout was exemplified by the account of a fishing excursion made by W. S. Jones of Akron, Ohio, just after the turn of the century. After first trying his luck on the "famous Elwha river," Jones proceeded next to Lake Sutherland. He wrote,

Soon there came a savage strike, a flash in the sunlight, and then war was on. The battle, however, was short. He was well hooked. I drew him in, killed him in mercy, and we put the spoon away. That was the most beautiful specimen I've ever taken. . . . Its dull blue back, soft-tinted salmon-pink sides, and bright silver belly were identical with Crescent's bluebacks (Jones 1902, 429).

In the early 1900s a fish hatchery program was established and ostensibly designed to expand the production of the Beardslee, and later the cutthroat and sockeye salmon population in freshwater lakes and rivers around the north Peninsula. Ironically, the hatchery operation proved to be the near demise of the "Beardslee trout." Over the years the Beardslee stock has fluctuated greatly (PADN 1983b, 1 May).

The Elwha River, draining the north Peninsula, was another early popular fishing area. A 1911 promotional pamphlet pronouncing on the wonders of the Lake Crescent area claimed: "At McDonald Bridge the wilderness and grandeur of the Elwha are particularly impressive and the ripples and pools of this splendid trout stream offer a hard-to-resist temptation to just stop for a minute to try a few casts. . . . It is fairly clear [that] the big Dolly Vardens in the deep, dark pools, or the gamy cutthroats on the wide, white-crested rapids, afford abundant fishing" (Dalton Collection 1911, 12). In 1934, then Assistant Chief Ranger Preston Macy attested, "there is no question but the Elwha is the best trout stream in the Olympics." Many fishing enthusiasts hiked or hired packers for the trip up the Elwha River expressly to fish (UW 1934, 20 August).

Popular fishing rivers and lakes in the Olympic Mountains were not limited to Lake Crescent and the Elwha River. At various times rivers on the east side of the mountains were popular fishing grounds. Although high mountain lakes are not large enough to support heavy sustained fishing, larger lowland lakes, such as Quinault and Cushman, generally produced more fish (Gallison Collection 1929). Depending on variables such as artificial stocking and the carrying capacity of rivers and streams, various major drainage streams throughout the Olympic Mountains yielded considerable quantities of fish.

With the creation of Olympic National Park in 1938, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, in an address in Seattle before the Northwest Conservation League commented: "The United States government encourages fishing in national parks. . . . The federal government stands ready to assume full cost of keeping the lakes and streams of such parks stocked with fish" (Seattle PI 1938, 27 August). Olympic National Park's first superintendent, Preston Macy, reported in 1944 that "Fishing throughout the park has been quite good in spite of the fact that there has been no artificial 'restocking' for several years" (NARS:RG 79 1944a, n.d.).

Existing cabins once used for sport hunting and fishing enthusiasts are limited to the Elwha River Valley drainage. Several sports enthusiasts who visited the valley year after year received Forest Service permits to erect summer cabins on or near the present Elwha River Trail. Four of these cabins were built in the 1920s. The then acting custodian of Mount Olympus National Monument, Preston Macy, reported the existence of four summer residences on the Elwha River in 1935: the log cabin of Dr. Ball of Seattle located near Windfall Creek and built in 1920; the log cabins of Truman Drum and Frederick Remann, both built in 1926 and located only one-half mile apart and about a mile south of the present Elkhorn Elkhorn Ranger Station; and the log cabin of H. H. Botten, erected in 1928-1929 about ten miles south of Remann's Cabin (NPS OLYM 1935, 24 August).

In 1983 only two Elwha River summer residence cabins remain intact: the log cabin of Frederick Remann and the cabin of H. H. Botten (commonly called the Wilder Cabin). Both cabins were built under the supervision of pioneer Elwha River settler Grant Humes and feature carefully crafted dovetail corner joints, an extended roof that forms a front porch. They have a nearly identical overall dimensions.

Frederick G. Remann, who was known locally for his prowess as a fisherman, was among the more prominent regular visitors to the Elwah Valley. A resident of Tacoma, Washington from 1907 until his death in 1949, Remann gained acclaim and stature in local and state politics. He began his career as the Pierce County prosecuting attorney (1915-1919), and ascended to superior court judge (1926-1948) (Tacoma News Tribune 1977, 1 May; Tacoma Who's Who 1929, 166). Remann, an avid fisherman, selected a low lying flat on the banks of the Elwha River for the site of what he called his Elk Lick Cabin. Vulnerable to flooding, Remann's Elk Lick Cabin was moved once around 1939, when the changing course of the river threatened to destroy it. During this move, the cabin was disassembled and relocated on a high shelf overlooking the river (NPS OLYM ca. 1979, n.d.). Remann's Cabin stands at this location today.



In 1940, Dr. Ball's private vacation cabin, near Primrose Creek on the Elwha River, probably looked much as it did when constructed in the mid 1920s. The Ball cabin no longer stands. (Courtesy of Olympic National Park)


Approximately ten miles upriver from Remann's Elk Lick Cabin, the Botten (Wilder) Cabin is the only other private recreational cabin still standing in the Elwha River drainage. Henry H. Botten, a civil engineer and assistant manager of the Washington Survey and Rating Bureau in Seattle (Seattle City Directory 1911-1930), commissioned Grant Humes to erect a cabin at Leitha Creek near a camp known as Crackerville. In the summer of 1928 Humes described the cabin site in a letter dated 9 July to his brother: "It is a grand, wild spot and we plan to deface the forest but little and make no trail leading to it. . . . A fine view is had of the mountains across the river and a husky creek tumbles down the gulch alongside the cabin site . . . (Dalton Collection 1916-1933). In addition to the Botten Cabin, Humes built a small "woodhouse" nearby for storing supplies and tools during the winter of 1928-1929, according to a letter written by Grant on 23 September 1928. The cabin was presumably completed in the spring of 1929 (Dalton Collection 1916-1933).

Two of the four Elwha River fishing cabins built in the 1920s are no longer standing. The two-room cabin of Dr. Ball, the oldest of the private recreational cabins on the Elwha River near Windfall Creek, is now in deteriorated condition with the roof collapsed into the center of the cabin. Only the log walls remain erect. The Truman Drum Cabin, that stood about one-half mile south of Elkhorn Ranger Station, was destroyed in 1982. Between August 1943 and May 1944, AWS stations continued to operate; however, they were apparently shut down at certain times during the winter months. In that ten month period, 12,819 army "flashes" were made by AWS observers in the Park. With continued U.S. military successes against the Japanese in the Pacific, defense measures on the Pacific Coast gradually relaxed. On 1 June 1944 the entire AWS system was abandoned along the Pacific Coast, and all personnel were laid off (NARS:RG 79 ca. 1945, n.d.).


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