Where: La Push, Olympic Peninsula, Washington, USA
When: Great in July for a festival, in spring or autumn for whale migrations, or winter for beachcombing and romantic beach fires
Remember to bring: A big box of lemons to squeeze onto all the salmons you’ll be fishing and cooking straight from the sea
On the North West Coast not far from the Canadian border in the State of Washington, this stretch of the Pacific is known as the Olympic Peninsula. La Push is an undiscovered jewel in the wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula. It’s situated 12 miles from Forks, Washington and is part of the Olympic National Parks Rainforest. It takes its name from a corruption of la bouche, French for mouth as the village sits at the mouth of the Quillayute River.
Home to the Quileute Tribe of Native American Indians and their tiny one square mile reservation, visitors can stay here in simple cabins on the beach. Flanked on three sides by ancient rainforest and by the wild Pacific Ocean on the fourth, the tiny enclave of La Push remains isolated and unspoilt. First Beach is a place of rugged beauty, offering scenic views of sea stacks, driftwood, tide pools, and sometimes dramatic and stormy surf. James Island is the burial place of Quileute tribal chiefs.
When To Visit
– For less crowded beaches visit during the winter, when you’ll be rewarded with winter storms, great beachcombing, your pick of the accommodation, and you can warm up in the evening with a romantic beach fire – although make sure you adhere to the camping rules.
– Grey whales may be spotted as they come close to the shore during their annual migration in spring and autumn, and if you’re lucky you may be able to get close enough to kayak along side them.
– Over one weekend in mid-July each year you can attend two days of cultural heritage celebration in La Push, where you can take part in traditional song, dance, salmon bakes, and arts and crafts.
Traditional Salmon Fishing
Stay at either Ocean View Resort or Lonesome Creek RV Park (both Quileute Indian Tourist enterprises) overlooking First Beach and you will be able to take part in traditional salmon fishing trips by taking a kayak out from the beach and heading to the traditional fishing spots. The Quileutes invoke the good luck of the salmon spirits through song; if it’s the first salmon caught in the spring, the head and bones are thrown back into the water to ensure a good harvest for the year to come. The future of the salmon is considered to be linked intrinsically to the future of the tribe. You then take the fish back to the beach where they will show you how to prepare the salmon and bake it in the traditional way; a wooden tee pee is constructed around the fire so that the salmon is effectively smoked.
When visiting Native American lands it’s advisable to bear a few things in mind so you don’t cause offence: never take alcohol onto their lands, do not take photographs without asking permission first, dress appropriately, and do not clap during ceremonies – they are traditional and sometimes religious events, not entertainment.
Quileute Natural Resources
Good educational site for learning more about the history of La Push and its first peoples.
Ocean Park Resort
PO Box 67
LA Push, WA 98350, USA
Tel: 001 360 374 5267
The place to stay in La Push. To ensure pure relaxation for the guests, the cabins deliberately lack telephones and televisions. Visitors are encouraged to join in the Healing Circle, a ritual drumming group held every Wednesday, where local Quileute tribal members play drums and dance to pray for those in spiritual need. Photography is not allowed.
By Faye Welborn