March 28, 2008

Introducing the Hoh River

Posted by: Julia Swan

In just less than a month, a new environmental photography exhibit opens on April 24, 2008 at the Burke called Fast Moving Water: The Hoh River Story. The exhibit showcases 14 framed color photographs of the Hoh River by acclaimed nature photographer Keith Lazelle.

I have to admit, until recently I knew very little about the Hoh River. I grew up in the backyard of the mighty Columba River, so 50 miles of flowing water in the Olympic Peninsula seemed more like a stream to me. Of course, once I started learning more about the Hoh River, I realized that this small river, tucked away in one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest, has quite a fascinating story.

The Hoh River helps support one of the planet’s last intact temperate rainforests, the Hoh Rain Forest. Enormous Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and western red cedar trees tower at up to 300 feet and are part of a rich and diverse ecosystem of plants and animals. Bald eagles, northern spotted owls, Roosevelt elk, black bears, bull trout, and salmon are just a few of the species that can commonly be found in the Hoh Rain Forest.

The Hoh River plays a crucial part in sustaining this luscious forest habitat. The waters of the river, and its tributaries, are an important life source for nearly all of the living creatures and green plant life in the forest. That’s all fine and well, but the truly unique feature of the Hoh River is that it is one of the only rivers in the contiguous United States that is in pristine condition—in other words, the Hoh River and its floodplain has escaped the onslaught of damming, logging, and other sorts of development that has affected so many American rivers.

In an age when untouched natural environments are increasingly vulnerable, the Hoh River is an important symbol of why conservation matters. Luckily, groups such as the The Hoh River Trust, our partner in bringing this exhibit to the Burke, have worked hard to protect and preserve the river and the land that surrounds it. One look at the gorgeous photos from Fast Moving Water, and I’m sold. In fact, once that sun comes back out, I might have to a plan a little venture into the rainforest!

- Julia

Photos by Keith Lazelle, on view in Fast Moving Water: The Hoh River Story, April 24-June 6, 2008, Burke Museum.