By Douglas Scott
At 63.5 miles long the Wynoochee River is always flowing, thanks to the 140 inches of rain that fall in this region annually. While many flock to the more popular rivers of the area, or head to the Olympic Mountains or Cascades to explore nature, the Wynoochee River Valley and surrounding foothills are some of the more beautiful spots in the state. With tales of lost treasure, stunning waterfalls, recent Bigfoot sightings, great fishing, miles of amazing hikes and a unique history, Wynoochee needs to be your weekend destination.
While best known for timber, the Wynoochee region was first left alone by the local settlers. Huge old-growth forests and abundant wildlife upstream made the region an outdoor lover’s paradise. Until the 1940s, the towering timber of the area Wynoochee was basically untouched, with locals enjoying hiking, hunting and exploring the wilderness.
That all changed during World War II, when logging took off in the region and many hillsides were clear-cut. This practice continued well into the 1980s, leaving Wynoochee to be the home to what many consider the worst logging practices in state history. Because the region was harvested so heavily, it has caused widespread erosion along its banks, as well as creating numerous landslides. The river was dammed in 1972, and over the past 44 years, the Wynoochee River Valley has been struggling to return to its original splendor.
Despite the Wynoochee region being logged heavily, natural beauty is slowly returning to the area, making it once again a great destination to hike or camp in the remaining old growth timber. Home to some of the more beautiful waterfalls on the Olympic Peninsula, as well as a great 16-mile long trail around Wynoochee Lake, a trip to Wynoochee doesn’t have to be a day trip. The Coho Campground sits along the lake with forty-six campsites that can fit tents or RVs, as well as eight hike-in sites and three canvas sided yurts that can accommodate up to six people. With views of the lake from most places to stay, this is an awesome spot to spend the weekend. More information about the Coho Campground can be found online at www.recreation.gov or via phone at (877) 444-6777.
Wynoochee also has a history of the unexplained. In the past fifteen years, there have been twenty-two reported Bigfoot sightings in Grays Harbor, with countless more going unreported. The region has even been investigated by the team at Finding Bigfoot, a television show on Animal Planet. Wynoochee is a common location for members of the Bigfoot Research Organization to conduct research, but amazingly enough, the prospect of sighting a Sasquatch isn’t the most bizarre aspect of the region.
The strangest aspect to the Wynoochee region has to be John Tornow, better known as the Wild Man of the Wynoochee. This murderer and thief was known to terrorize Grays Harbor in the early 1900s, eventually robbing a local grocery store, that also served as a bank, of $15,000 as well as killing a Sheriff and a Warden. Eventually, he was found hiding in the woods, where he was shot and killed. His last words were the location of the $15,000, which has never been found. The money, which has never been recovered, is said to be near a boulder that appeared to look like a fish fin along an old channel of the Wynoochee River.
While camping near lost treasure and Sasquatch may be appealing, the highlights of the Wynoochee Area for most are the numerous waterfalls around the lake. From the seemingly ever-expanding base of Maidenhair Falls to the gorgeous two-tier Wynoochee Falls and the easy accessible Spoon Creek Falls, the region has some fantastic natural wonders. The great thing about these waterfalls is that they are mostly easy to hike to and perfect to wade in on a hot summer’s day.
With the weather getting warmer, and the daylight lasting longer each day, now is the perfect time to take a day or a weekend at Wynoochee. With great history, fantastic hikes and a chance to discover either Bigfoot or a long lost treasure, pack up the car and head to the southern end of the Olympic Peninsula.
How to get to Wynoochee: Take the Devonshire Road Exit West of Montesano, turning left on Devonshire Road. Take another left on Old 410 Highway, followed by a quick right on Wynoochee Valley Road. This road will eventually turn into National Forest Service Road 22, which will lead you to the Wynoochee area.