Washington Islands Wilderness is located off the the Olympic Coast within the Washington Islands National Wildlife Refuges, established by Theodore Roosevelt. Washington Islands is comprised of Flattery Rocks, Quillayute Needles, and Copalis, stretching off-shore from Cape Flattery all the way south to Copalis, Washington. More than 600 islands, rocks, and reefs make up this unit, and all but Destruction Island are designated as Wilderness along with several hundred acres of unsurveyed lands above the line of mean high water. The islands range insize from less than 1 acre to about 36 acres, and most drop abruptly into the sea. They provide nesting habitat for more than 70 percent of Washington's seabirds and support some of the largest seabird colonies in the continental United States. Some of the highlighted species include common murre, tufted puffin, Brandt cormorant, and rhinoceros auklet. Marine mammals such as the charismatic sea otter, harbor seal, Steller sea lion, California sea lion, and northern elephant seal regularly haul out onto the islands to rest, and they commonly feed in waters surrounding the Wilderness. To prevent disturbance to extremely sensitive seabirds and marine mammals, Washington Islands Wilderness is closed to public entry year round and waters within 500 feet are designated as a voluntary closure to all watercraft.
Closed Wilderness Area
Ten of the National Wilderness Preservation System's 803 wilderness areas are closed to access and use by the general public. Most of these closed areas are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The core mission of the Service's National Wildlife Refuge System is conservation of native fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. The Washington Islands Wilderness, part of the Copalis National Wildlife Refuge, Flattery Rocks National Wildlife Refuge and Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge, is closed to visitation to protect wildlife and other natural, cultural, and/or other resources consistent with the conservation purpose(s) of the refuges. Wilderness designation provides an additional level of protection for the wilderness portions of these refuges, but does not open the area to public access or use.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Washington Islands Wilderness is closed to access and use by the general public. However, visitor opportunities and views of the Wilderness are available at nearby Olympic National Park.
Olympic National Park provides access to 50 miles of beaches with views of the islands. The boundaries of Olympic National Park also overlap refuge islands (phone 360-565-3130). The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary overlays the waters surrounding the Washingon Islands Wilderness. Off-site interpretive panels at Lake Ozette, Rialto Beach, Second Beach, Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch give information about the islands.
Safety and Current Conditions
Boating safety should be foremost in the minds of visitors in the National Marine Sanctuary surrounding the islands. Check for National Weather Service storm warnings at http://www.weather.gov/, and always wear personal flotation devices.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.