Glaciers of the Olympics

Glaciers of the Olympic Mountains. Map by Steph Abegg.
Glaciers on Mt. Olympus. Map by Steph Abegg.

Glacial ice is one of the foremost scenic and scientific features of Olympic National Park. There are several glaciers crowning the Olympics peaks. Even though most of the glaciers in the Olympics are quite small in contrast to the great rivers of ice found today in some other areas of the world, the glaciers in the Olympics can be quite rugged and impressive. The most prominent glaciers are those on Mount Olympus, covering approximately ten square miles in total. Beyond the Olympic complex are the glaciers of Mount Carrie, the Bailey Range, Mount Christie, and Mount Anderson, as well as other smaller glaciers throughout the range.

The movement of glacial ice, past and present, has produced striking geological features in the Olympic mountains. The lake basins, U-shaped valleys, and jagged peaks are the products of extensive glacial erosion that occurred many thousands of years ago when the year-round climate was colder and wetter. Glacial erosional processes continue today, but on a much smaller scale. As glaciers advance and retreat, rock is plucked, transported, and deposited by moving ice.  Rounded, subdued mountains are carved into sharp-pointed peaks (horns), broad ridges are excavated into narrow, even knife-edged forms (aretes), and in many cases, a glacially-created bowl (cirque) at the head of a glacial valley will be  sufficiently deepened or dammed by an end moraine to create a lake basin (tarn). The deposition of rock results in ground moraines consisting of rock blanketing the surface irregularly.  Much  rock accumulates on a glacier's sides forming lateral moraines  and end moraines form when a glacier's terminus is stationary for a time.  The furthest down-valley bend moraine is  a  terminal moraine.   The finely-ground rock "flour" created by glacial abrasion often makes glacial meltwater look milky.   Milky or "whitish" streams are a clue that there is an actively-moving glacier or glaciers upstream.

The glaciers on Mount Olympus, especially the Blue Glacier, have been studied intensely since 1957 by scientific groups seeking valuable data on the composition of an Olympic glacier and how the ice responds to the climate from one year to the next. With the temperature and precipitation trends of the recent years, many of the glaciers of the Olympics are shrinking as the summer melt exceeds the winter accumulation. Click here to see some glacier comparison photos showing some dramatic recession of several of the Olympics glaciers.

Below is a list of the major glaciers of the Olympic Mountains, along with photos.

The 15 Glaciers of the Olympic Mountains recognized by the USGS Board of Geographic Names

Mount Olympus
Blue Glacier · Hoh Glacier · Hubert Glacier · Humes Glacier · Jeffers Glacier · White Glacier

Mount Anderson
Anderson Glacier · Eel Glacier · Hanging Glacier

Other mountains
Cameron Glaciers · Carrie Glacier · Fairchild Glacier · Ice River Glacier · Lillian Glacier · Queets Glacier

The USGS GNIS Database gives the following statistics for these 15 glaciers:

Glaciers on Mount Olympus
Blue Glacier
Aerial photo by John Scurlock, Sept 23, 2007.
Jefferson 474835N 1234114W 5463 Mount Olympus
Hoh Glacier
Photo by Steph Abegg, July 10, 2007.
Jefferson 474754N 1234013W 5223 Mount Olympus
Hubert Glacier
Photo by Steph Abegg, July 8, 2007.
Jefferson 474700N 1234240W 4429 Mount Olympus
Humes Glacier
Photo by Ron Hayward.
Jefferson 474724N 1233903W 5430 Mount Olympus
Jeffers Glacier
Photo by Mike MacFerrin.
Jefferson 474638N 1234016W 5056 Mount Olympus
White Glacier
Photo by Jon Higgins.
Jefferson 474807N 1234435W 5673 Mount Olympus
Glaciers on Mount Anderson
Anderson Glacier
Photo by Kevin Koski.
Jefferson 474237N 1231956W 5233 Mount Steel
Eel Glacier
Photo by Long Bach Nguyen.
Jefferson 474356N 1232024W 5535 Mount Steel
Hanging Glacier
Photo by John Scurlock Sept 2007.
Jefferson 474354N 1231926W 5233 Mount Steel
Glaciers on Other Mountains
Cameron Glaciers
Photo by ekthorson.
Jefferson 474937N 1231936W 6480 Wellesley Peak
Carrie Glacier
Photo by David Williams.
Clallam 475329N 1233805W 5938 Mount Carrie
Fairchild Glacier
Photo by Lee Petersen.
Clallam 475424N 1233745W 6076 Mount Carrie
Ice River Glacier
Photo by John Scurlock.
Jefferson 474930N 1234017W 5495 Mount Olympus
Lillian Glacier
(Lillian Glacier to right, Grand Pass left). Photo by Rod Gilbert.
Jefferson 475107N 1232238W 6273 McCartney Peak
Queets Glacier
Photo by Larry Workman.
Jefferson 474604N 1233606W 5485 Mount Queets

Glaciers of the Olympic Mountains with Unofficial Names

Black Glacier
Christie Glacier
Photo by John Scurlock.
Crystal Glacier
Photo by John Scurlock.
Delabarre Glaciers
Photo by John Scurlock.
Desperation Glacier
(Desperation Glacier on right.) Photo by John Scurlock.
Geri-Freki Glacier
Photo by John Myers.
Linsley Glacier
(Below West Peak)

Photo by John Scurlock Sept 2007.
Mystery Glacier
Photo by Paul Gelineau.
White Mtn Glacier
Photo by John Scurlock.