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Olympia to Hoquiam

  • Distance: 52 miles
  • Routes: SR 8, SR 12
  • Estimated Driving time: 1.5 hours

The tour traverses the coastal range passing from the inland salt water shores of the Puget Sound to the deep water Grays Harbor, opening out to the Pacific Ocean. West of Olympia the tour skirts the south shores of Eld and Budd inlets, the southernmost fingers of the Puget Sound, before climbing briefly through the Black Hills. Coming out of the hills the tour follows the winding course of the Chehalis River valley, passing through small lumber and agriculture based towns that extracted resources from the surrounding lands. The tour crosses multiple river drainages moving run off from the temperate rain forest mantle around the Olympic Mountains to the north. These include the Satsop, Wynoochee, and Wishkah rivers, as well as the East and West forks of the Hoquiam River all feeding into the Chehalis River. A central deep water channel carved by the river and subsequent dredging extends through Grays Harbor from the Pacific Ocean in to Hoquiam and Aberdeen and up river to Cosmopolis providing a key shipping lane.

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State capital and seat of Thurston County, Olympia spreads, fan-like, from its harbor on Puget Sound over gently sloping hills, with Mount Rainier on the east and the more distant Olympics visible to the north. Here, near the place where the Nisqually once met in solemn council to devise means of protection against the soleeks itsweet (angry brown bear), today legislators convene to represent the citizens of Washington State. From...

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At the end of Eld Inlet, this area supports broad oyster beds where the famous Olympia oysters, of exceptional delicacy and small size, are grown. These are Washington’s only native oysters. Seldom more than an inch-and-a-half in diameter, Olympia oysters have always been a very popular treat. Due to overharvesting and water pollution, however, oyster stocks in both Willapa Bay and the Puget Sound were significantly depleted by the mid-twentieth...

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This series of hills begins southwest of Olympia; the highest hill is 760 feet high. They extend for several miles into the Capitol State Forest. When the application for a post office, to serve the Mason County Logging Company and the Mumby Lumber and Shingle Company operations, was submitted to the post office department, the name Black Hills was proposed. The post office was eventually named Bordeaux for Thomas and...

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Mile: 20

On a grassy flat in an area of logged-off land, McCleary is cut by a creek that washes under the highway and across the town through a straight ditch, marked by numerous footbridges. Several ranches of mill-workers used to be around the town; an extension of the main street ran into the millyard of the industrial plant, a sash-and-door factory owned by the McCleary Mill Company, which was named for...

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Points of Interest
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Old McCleary Hotel

Mile: 1

A community between Whites and McCleary, it was named for Joseph Ray, a local sawmill operator. During the 1940s the area consisted of stump land and scrubby second-growth trees. At intervals newly cleared plots, with little shacks, made their appearance. Tiers of pulpwood and ricks of fuel wood were piled along the highway awaiting shipment. This area now consists of small scattered farms and rural homes.

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Mile: 5

Cloquallum Creek rises in Lystair Lake and flows for 21 miles southwest, through Grays Harbor County to the Chehalis River near Elma. In 1841, the Wilkes Expedition borrowed from the word Klu-kwe-ii-ub, which was the Chehalis tribe’s name for the Quillayute Indians. The first three syllables refer to a dance performed by members of a secret society in order to gain magic power in war expeditions, and the last syllable...

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Adjacent to the Elma Fair Grounds (today Grays Harbor County Fair & Event Center), a race track and grandstand, are the buildings of a CCC camp, actually several barns, that are still used by the Grays Harbor County Fair & Event Center. Growing and shipping of seed was becoming a local industry in the 1940s; and a dairy plant of some size was in operation. A 4-H fair continues to...

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In the Chehalis River Valley and on the Chehalis River, this was a pleasant agricultural town with wide, quiet, tree-arched streets. D. F. Byles and his family, Elma’s first citizens, took a land donation claim in 1853 and were members of the first party of immigrants to come over Naches Pass. A short time later J. M. Anderson erected a store building, and other settlers from the Mississippi Valley arrived....

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A cluster of buildings about a store and a church, it was the center of a populous area of dairy farms, poultry ranches, berry fields, and bulb farms. The church remains, along with another wood-frame grange north from the main street. The village, and the Satsop River by which it stands, are named for an Indian tribe, the Sats-a-pish which means “on a creek.”

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This town consisted of a small group of old buildings hugging the highway on either side. By 1941, a logging-donkey yard, filled with donkey engines, steam shovels, and other heavy equipment, seemed to be waiting for a period of activity that may never return. There is no visible evidence of these lumber equipment graveyards along the highway today. In Brady is a Douglas fir tree farm and scattered residences. The...

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Seat of Grays Harbor County and one of the oldest cities in the region, this town lies at the confluence of the sluggish Wynooche (Ind. “shifting sands”) and Chehalis rivers. First settlement was made on the south bank of the Chehalis, almost opposite the mouth of the Wynooche, by Isaiah Scammon, who had come from Maine. His journey to this corner of the country is illustrative of the difficulties that...

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Points of Interest
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Blue Mountain Pea Cannery

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Residential Districts

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City Hall

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Grays Harbor County Courthouse

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Mckenzie-Elmer Plaque

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U.S. Post Office

Broad fields here are golden with flowering mustard, or emerald with new clover and luxuriant pasturage. Sleek dairy cattle graze near large barns and comfortable rural houses. In the stump lands a few miles further west, however, a less happy spectacle is presented—scattered farms standing in the midst of stumps, infant second-growth fir, cedar, alder, and maple, and thick underbrush. Signs tacked to some of the fence posts tell the...

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Aberdeen lies at the confluence of the Chehalis and the Wishkah Rivers, facing Grays Harbor. The larger of the cities with compact blocks of substantial office buildings, stores, hotels, garages, and theaters along Whishkah Street, the main thoroughfare has the appearance of a small metropolis. North of the business section, the terrain rises to the higher ground of the residential area. until it reaches the heights of Bel-Aire, which, with...

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Hoquiam is situated on deep water at the mouth of the Hoquiam River, 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, facing Grays Harbor which is often blanketed by the fog or rainfall characteristic of the region. Pioneer settlement of the Grays Harbor region, it is the elder of the two cities. In economy, industrial development, and general character it is much like its sister city. West of the river the streets...

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