Native Americans who inhabited the area had few physical wants because the climate was moderate and the land and the sea were so abundant.
The people were surrounded by a large variety of sea, land, and plant foods, as well as many sources for clothing. They made huge longhouses. Massive trees were readily available to carve sea and river-going canoes, or for crafting natural tools.
The Lake Quinault area and the upper Quinault Valley were used seasonally to gather materials and foods such as berries, fish and meat. The Quinault River was the main transportation route into the valley.
The first white settler to come into the valley was Alfred Noyes who came up the river with the Indians in 1888. He built a cabin at what is now “Lockes Landing” and spent the winter of 1888 – 1889 trapping.
In July of 1889, Joseph N. Locke came overland from Montesano, where a friend had told him of the “Wonderful Quinault Valley,” a nine day trek. He built a cabin and posted notice of a “claim” on August 8, 1889. Phil Locke related that various others began to settle on claims at the head of the lake at this same time including Jack and Albert Pruce, Jim Kelly, Alfred Noyes, Jack Ewell, and Harry West.
The Seattle Press-Times Expedition straggled into the Quinault Valley in May 1890 and a special edition of the paper covering the exploration stimulated considerable interest in the area. The next Government Expedition came over the mountains from Hoodsport, and was led by Lieutenant O’Neil. Alfred V. Higley and Orte L. Higley followed the O’Neil party’s trail from Hoodsport and arrived in the Quinault Valley in the fall of 1890.
The Quinault Townsite was platted in July 1890 by O.G. Chase and Ogden. The first Hotel was built in 1891 and was run by O. L. Higley in a building built by the Quinault Townsite Company (about where the U.S. Forest Service maintenance buildings currently are located).
A public school ran a 6 month schedule on account to the poor winter conditions.
The area has seen limited in commercial development due for the variety of landowners.
In 1897 a federal forest reserve was established on Olympic Peninsula lands. In 1909, Theodore Roosevelt created the Mount Olympus National Monument utilizing the middle portion of the former forest reserve. The rest of the land became the National Forest. In 1938 the monument was expanded and the name was changed to the Olympic National Park. The Quinault Indian Nation owns Lake Quinault.
The rainforest begins within the Mount Anderson drainage area to the east and the Low Divide drainage to the northwest. This majestic forest follows the paths of the North and East Forks of the Quinault River. These forks meander down the valley and merge into one Quinault River, which enters Lake Quinault. The Quinault Rain Forest completely surrounds Lake Quinault, bringing its unique biological community to the shoreline.
Moisture in the form of rain, drizzle and fog, and a valley open to southwesterly winds ensures the continuation of the life of a temperate rainforest. Feet measure rainfall in the Quinault Rain Forest. There is an average of 10 to 15 feet, (120” - 140” up to 180”) of rainfall each year. Moisture is evident everywhere. Clouds, fog and forest growth help keep temperatures moderate summer and winter. This moisture and moderate temperature ensure plant growth and provides habitat for a wide variety of critters year round. And it’s the rainfall that makes this area unique.
Douglas firs, western red cedar and pacific silver fir dominate themain forest upper canopy. Adding to this rich dark green are the moisture dependent Sitka spruce and the western hemlock. The forest canopy is open, allowing streams of sunlight to reach the forest floor. These huge conifers along with the big leaf maple and alder along the river bars comprise first impressions for those visiting the Quinault Rainforest.
The Quinault Rainforest understory is comprised of fern, devil’s club, and hanging curtains of moss, which add a rich bright, green hue. Indian-Plum, salmonberry, thimbleberry, blueberry and wild blackberry bush flowers provide nectar for the rufous hummingbird and bees. A variety of wild flowers and bright berries add their special colors to this enchanted garden setting.
The valley is called the "Valley of the Rain Forest Giants" because of the number of record size tree species located there. The largest specimens of Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Alaskan Cedar and Mountain Hemlock are found in the forest as well as five of the ten largest Douglas-firs. It is believed to be the area with the greatest number of record size giant tree species in the smallest area in the world. It does have the largest trees in the world outside of the state of California and New Zealand.
The Quinault Rain Forest is home to several Roosevelt Elk herds. As well there is Black bear, cougar, black-tailed deer, coyote, and many smaller mammals such as bobcat, beaver, river otter, raccoon, reside within the understory of the rain forest canopy.
The Bald eagle, golden eagle, osprey, hawk, blue heron, raven and crow are seen all along the river valley and at Lake Quinault. The eagles are abundant in the winter when there is a good salmon run.
The Quinault Rain Forest canopy and unstory is the home of billions of tiny organisms including the Banana slug, which average six inches in length.