Lake Crescent is considered by many to be one of the crown jewels of Olympic National Park. With waterfalls, trails and a fantastic location, Lake Crescent is the scene of endless family vacations, romantic getaways and awe-inspiring hikes. Camping, lodging and some of the most memorable day hikes are available in the region, making this section of the park incredibly popular.
While most think Lake Crescent is a peaceful and calm spot, the history of the region talks about war, murder, mystery and mountain goats. From Marymere Falls and Devils Punchbowl to Mount Storm King and the Spruce Railroad Trail, each step in the Lake Crescent area of Olympic National Park is rich in beauty, history and awesomeness. Take a few minutes, read the list below and plan your trip to see the sights of this awesome lake.
5 Facts: Lake Crescent
The Story of How Lake Crescent was Formed
Mount Storm King was formed, according to the native people’s oral history, because of a battle between the Klallam and Quileute tribes. Thousands of years before Europeans invaded/settled the region, the Klallam and Quileute tribes were fighting at the foot of Mount Storm King. Mount Storm King, also a mountain king of the area, got angry at the fighting and threw a giant boulder at the tribesmen. The rock, large enough to block the river and form the modern version of Lake Crescent, killed all the warriors. For years, the locals avoided the region, fearful they would meet the same feat as their ancestors.
Interestingly enough, geological evidence supports this story to a certain degree. According to geological studies in the area, a huge landslide did occur in the region. The landslide was big enough to raise the level of the old lake, making Lake Crescent the deep lake it is today.
The origin of the Olympic Mountain Goats
Mount Storm King, above Lake Crescent, is where they first released Mountain Goats in the area. On January 1st, 1925 the United States Forest Service released four mountain goats. The goats, from the Selkirk Mountains in Canada, were placed on Mount Storm King as an experiment to see how adaptable they would be to the rugged mountains of the Olympics. The goat’s ability to adapt, as well as reproduce, saw their numbers increase to as many as 800. Today, the numbers are in the low 300’s, though reports of increasingly aggressive behavior have increased each year.
Murder and The Lady of the Lake
In 1936, Hallie Latham Illingworth, a Kentucky native who became a waitress at Lake Crescent Tavern, married a local beer truck driver and known womanizer. The marriage was horrible, with Hallie showing up to work with black eyes and deep bruises on her neck and arms, with one bout of domestic violence involving the police. It took a lot to get the local police to respond to the Domestic Violence claim, so by all accounts, the dude Hallie married was bad news.
Before Christmas in 1937, Hallie suddenly vanished. Her family didn’t hear a word from her for months, while her husband claimed she ran off with another man. He later left the state and moved to California with a woman from Port Angeles with whom he was rumored to be romantically involved.
For three years, Hallie was considered a missing person.
On July 6th, 1940, two fishermen on Lake Crescent spotted a large mass floating in the water. As their boat drew closer, they discovered that the large mass was a woman’s body, nearly perfectly reserved.
According to HistoryLink.Org, “The dead woman’s flesh had turned to something like Ivory Soap, McNutt said later, describing a condition known as ‘saponification.’ The soap-like condition resulted from minerals in the lake interacting with the fats in the woman’s body. The lake’s near-freezing temperatures had virtually refrigerated the corpse for years. “
The body was identified as Hallie, who was then dubbed The Lady of the Lake by locals. Her husband was eventually arrested for her murder, as he became too violent in a fight and ended up killing her. Beaten and strangled to death, Hallie’s body was weighed down with heavy weights and dropped into the deepest part of Lake Crescent. While the family received closure, many say that the lake is still haunted.
There is No Bottom
The official depth of Lake Crescent is 624 feet, but the readings that were taken during the 1960’s were seriously flawed. While Lake Crescent is the second deepest lake in the State of Washington, we still have yet to take an official reading for the depth of the lake. The original reading, from 1964, was taken by Peninsula College students in the fisheries program and was deemed to be an official measurement.
In actuality, the depth of the lake is more than 1,000 feet deep, as measured by the power crew when they were playing power lines in the lake. No plans are in order to re-measure the depth of the lake.
The Lake That Nearly Won the War
The Spruce Railroad Trail, which was built as a working railway during World War I, was going to be used to transport Spruce trees to Port Angeles to build airplanes during the war. However, before the railway was completed, the war ended and the forest was not harvested. The trail is long, but flat, making it perfect for the family in nearly any weather. It is almost 8 miles round trip, but it is one of the few trails in any National Park that allows dogs and bikes.
On the Spruce Railroad Trail, one can see many things, ranging from scenic views and railroad tunnels to deep swimming holes and abandoned telegraph poles. One main highlight of the trail, aside from the gorgeous lake and trail tunnels, is Devil’s Punchbowl. During warm weather, Devil’s Punchbowl is the ideal swimming hole. At nearly 100 feet deep next to the cliff, it is a relatively safe place for swimmers and divers to jump for joy into an alpine lake.
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