Lake Crescent WA – Encounter the history and beauty of one of Nature’s most stunning places. Plus here are opportunities for hiking, camping, boating, fishing and relaxing around the lake.
18 miles to the west of Port Angeles Washington is a stunning, 9-mile-long lake carved by ancient glaciers.
Low oxygen levels and great depth result in water that is so deeply turquoise that, almost, one must see it to believe it.
Lake Crescent is an integral part of the history of the Pacific Northwest and the west end of the Olympic Peninsula.
To hear the native tribes tell it, Lake Crescent as we know it was formed when Mount Storm King was unhappy with the Klallam and Quileute tribes fighting at its feet. It therefore hurled a mighty rock which became wedged at the outlet of the lake, raising the level of the water.
What we do know is that an enormous landslide split the lake into two about 7,000 years ago. The east tip of the lake became a separate lake, now named Lake Sutherland.
By the late 1890's, agriculture and the timber industry were on the rise, especially in the Forks and surrounding areas, and a slow but steady rise in settlers was occurring.
The Log Hotel was built in 1895 on the north shore of Lake Crescent at the spot where the Port Crescent Road met Lake Crescent, an area called "Piedmont."
In 1900, there were no through-roads connecting Port Angeles and parts east with Forks and settlements to the west. The road from Port Angeles ended at the East Beach of Lake Crescent WA.
People arriving at Lake Crescent either from the north or the east needed to hop on a ferry for transportation to points around the lake.
Ferries stopped at the East Beach, at the Log Hotel on the north shore, at Singer's Tavern (which is now the Lake Crescent Lodge), and at Fairholme at the far westerly point of the lake.
By 1922, Washington State Road 9, now called Olympic Loop Highway (Hwy 101), had advanced along the south shore of Lake Crescent. For years it was a dirt road. The entire loop was completed by 1931.
In 1936, events began to transpire that would result in the tragic story of the Lady of the Lake. Hallie Latham of Port Angeles was employed at Singer's Tavern on the lake. She married Monty Illingworth, a drinker and, apparently, a hothead. In a little more than one year of marriage, Hallie was battered and abused on multiple occasions. In December 1937, she disappeared altogether, having run off with another man according to Monty.
Below: a very moody Lake Crescent may have looked something
like this on the December day the Lady of the Lake disappeared.
About three years later in 1940, a body floated to the surface of Lake Crescent. The body's outer layers had saponified and turned to soap due to the very cold lake water and 3 years of delayed decomposition.
The discovery of the grisly body made national headlines. The autopsy revealed a violent death, and because she could not initially be identified, she became known to the entire nation simply as "The Lady of the Lake." Months later, clues such as the body's unusual dental work brought its true identity to light.
Monty was later found guilty of killing Hallie unpremeditatedly in a rage, wrapping her body in blankets, attaching weights to it, and dropping it into the deepest part of the lake. He spent 9 years in the Walla Walla Washington penitentiary before being paroled.
There is so much to see and do in and around Lake Crescent WA!
At the very least, one can stop along the shores of Lake Crescent and enjoy a picnic. You'll find views and picnic tables at:
If you'd like to snap a few photos and just enjoy the beauty over PB&J or BLT sandwiches, Hwy 101 has several large scenic turnouts, all with terrific views.
But that is not all, oh no, that is not all!
Lake Crescent WA is the epicenter of several other worthy attractions and activities:
The Spruce Railroad was built in the late 1930's in order to transport spruce trees for use in World War II. The war ended before the railroad line was completed, and the effort was abandoned.
Today, many of the ties have been removed and the rail bed turned into a walking trail.
Below: Enjoy these photos of our hike along the Spruce
Railroad Trail, north shore of Lake Crescent WA. Click on a photo to view full size.
If you've allowed enough time, take a short drive to the west on Highway 101, and then take Sol Duc Road to the left (south). Within 12 miles of the highway are: