Drift Wood on Rialto Beach in the Olympic Wilderness Area

The logs were piled like thrown linclon logs.  The storm surges must have been impressive to push these logs up on the beach and stack them on top of each other.  Can you imagine what it might have looked like? (G. Thomas Bancroft)

The logs were piled like thrown linclon logs. The storm surges must have been impressive to push these logs up on the beach and stack them on top of each other. Can you imagine what it might have looked like? (G. Thomas Bancroft)[see more photos of Olympic Wilderness Area at www.thomasbancroft.com]

The drift wood logs were piled on the beach like so many Lincoln logs or legos thrown in a pile along the edge of a rug.   The differences being that these logs were massive in size.  Some were several feet in diameter and dozens of yard long.  I had to weave between logs and climb over them to reach the open beach.  In some places the logs covered wide patches at just above normal high tide and in other places where the hill came sharply down to the beach they were only a few logs along the shore.

I was hiking north along Rialto Beach into the Olympic Wilderness Area, a spectacular stretch of undeveloped beach protected in its natural state through the Wilderness Act and the Park Service.  These logs were entire trees that had fallen into rivers and streams through erosion and storms and floated at flood times down to the ocean or directly into the ocean from the shoreline.  Some still had the root system at their base.  Many were snapped along their trunks showing the force of water, floods and tides.  The force the storm had to push these logs into the piles on the beach must have been impressive.  The park service warns hikers that logs in the surf can be extremely dangerous.  It would be fun to watch a storm from high ground to see how it moves these pieces.

The intricate design formed by the wood grain and cracks was fascinating to study.  I studied the design trying to decide if it looked like something in particular. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

The intricate design formed by the wood grain and cracks was fascinating to study. I studied the design trying to decide if it looked like something in particular. (G. Thomas Bancroft)

I was fascinated by the designs formed in the wood.  The logs were bleached by the combination of salt water and time in the rain and sun.  Cracks formed along the grain of the wood and across the grain.  In places were the grain was intricate, the designs were elaborate.  It was especially fun to study the stump ends of the logs were the roots and trunk came together.  These places often had whorls and elaborate patterns.  I followed some of the cracks with my finger to trace out the design.

How long does a log stay on the beach and how long until it decays?  Fascinating to think about this dynamics and how it influences the ecology of these beaches.  I didn’t see partially decayed logs.  My guess is the storm tides would disintegrate a decaying log pretty quickly.

This large log was sitting solid in the surf and the waves were not strong enough to move it.    The next big storm may take this back to sea or push it higher on the beach.  What does it look like to you?  A large butterfly? (G. Thomas Bancroft)

This large log was sitting solid in the surf and the waves were not strong enough to move it. The next big storm may take this back to sea or push it higher on the beach. What does it look like to you? A large butterfly? (G. Thomas Bancroft)

2 thoughts on “Drift Wood on Rialto Beach in the Olympic Wilderness Area

  1. If you want to see some of those huge logs tossed around like toothpicks, Kalaloch is an excellent place for storm-watching. You can stay in the lodge or in a cabin on the bluff above the beach and watch as the storm surges hurl the logs end-over-end. The ground actually rumbles under your feet from the force of the wood and water hitting the cliffs, and every once in awhile the ocean heaves a log or two right into the forest. Truly stunning (and humbling!)

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