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Nestled in dense forest just a few miles from the Pacific Coast, Lake Ozette sits snuggled into Washington's Olympic Peninsula tourism region, on the coastal strip of Olympic National Park. With few inhabitants and limited road access, Lake Ozette is a very remote destination for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. In fact, though Lake Ozette is the third largest natural lake in Washington, it remains largely untouched. Taking advantage of the natural beauty surrounding it, Ozette Lake today serves as headquarters for several trails, great fishing and myriad summer water activities, including swimming, sailing and waterskiing.
Lake Ozette's very early history can be seen at the Makah Museum in Neah Bay. The Makah Tribe, which had a village near Lake Ozette, originally called the region "Osette." In a fascinating discovery in 1970, tidal erosion following a storm exposed artifacts that had been buried in a catastrophic mudslide that occurred around 1700. Excavation of the site continued for 11 years and produced over 55,000 artifacts, including cedar dug-out canoes; whaling, sealing, and fishing gear; basketry and other tools. Many of the artifacts, which were preserved by the unique conditions created by the mudslide, are on display at the museum.
Lake Ozette's more recent history is not as well preserved. Beginning in the late 1800's, Scandanavian settlers made claims around the lake. The area grew quickly, but was hard fought. Settlers cleared the land by hand and endured harsh lives on this remote tip of the country. At the time, as many as 130 homestead families had staked their claim at Lake Ozette. Today, only traces of their home sites remain and the land they cleared by hand has been reclaimed gradually by the earth itself.
The popular trails near Lake Ozette cross the lands once claimed by settlers and provide wonderful wildlife viewing and bird watching opportunties. Beginning on the shores of Lake Ozette, visitors follow a wooden walkway just over three miles through lush coastal forest to Cape Alava, famous for its wildlife sightings. The trail continues another three miles along the rocky beach past Native American petroglyphs at Wedding Rock, offering wonderful ocean views. At Sand Point the trail heads back to Lake Ozette for another three miles on cedar planks. Campsites are available along the trails. Public and private campgrounds can be found all around the lake as well, including Erickson Bay Campground, which can only be reached by boat. There are three islands on Lake Ozette: Tivoli, Garden Island and Baby Island.
Fishing on Lake Ozette is a must as the lake is home to 13 species of fish, including bass, perch, cutthroat trout, sockeye salmon, kokanee salmon and coho salmon. Boat ramps are located on the northern end of the lake and at Swan Bay. The sockeye population is not what it used to be on the lake, so the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has stepped in with a recovery plan aimed at providing improved habitat so that the fish can survive and multiply.
Running nearly the length of the western shores of Lake Ozette, the Olympic National Park provides additional camping, hiking, mountain biking and wilderness viewing opportunities. Much of the interior of the park is accessible only by foot. Numerous trails are available year round leading visitors along the coastline and on to glaciers, hot springs, rugged mountains and a lush rain forest. The park is a well protected state resource, with 95 percent of Olympic National Park's 922,651 acres designated as Wilderness.
Most of the overnight accommodations available around Lake Ozette are at campsites, but some vacation rental properties and cabins are available as well. Available real estate is also limited, as much of the property around the lake is either owned and managed by Olympic National Park or by private owners who are involved in timber production.
Lake Ozette is truly a destination for those looking for peace and quiet. With fascinating trails to follow, remote islands to explore and an area teeming with wildlife, you and your family will have an adventure of a lifetime at Lake Ozette.
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