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The Seven Wonders of Washington State

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Linda enjoys searching for fascinating travel destinations, seeking relaxation and fun, and (of course) eating great food.

Olympic Mountains, Washington State

Olympic Mountains, Washington State

What Are the Seven Wonders of the World?

Don’t worry if you can’t come up with a quick answer. Actually, this is a trick question. In World History studies you might have learned of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”:

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • The Colossus of Rhodes
  • The Pharos of Alexandria

Why The Number 7?

The Greeks believed that the Number 7 represents perfection.

All sound like amazing places to visit, but sadly the pyramid of Giza is the only one that is still in existence; what we know of the others is recorded in ancient writings.

However, an up-to-date list of The Seven Wonders of the Modern World has been compiled and includes:

  • The Empire State Building
  • The Itaipú Dam
  • The CN Tower
  • The Panama Canal
  • The Channel Tunnel
  • The North Sea Protection Works
  • The Golden Gate Bridge

But, this is just one of many, many lists.

It Seems Everyone Has Their Favorite Group of Seven

A 4-second Google search revealed half a dozen more—The Seven Wonders of …”the Medieval Mind”, the Natural World”, “the Underwater World”, “the Forgotten Natural Wonders”, “the Forgotten Modern Wonders”, and “the Forgotten Medieval Mind.”

Canada, Columbia, India, Poland, Portugal, Russia, and Wales have compiled their own lists.

Allow me to add one more—I have compiled my own personal list of the Seven Wonders of Washington State. I happen to enjoy stories, but if you deem history to be boring, you can skip those sections, cut to the chase, and still learn everything you need to know about these Washington wonders.

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Postcard of Point Defiance Pavillion, 1910

Postcard of Point Defiance Pavillion, 1910

History

Long before Charles Wilkes explored the west coast of North America, long before the northern portion of the Oregon Territory became the 42nd state of the Union, long before Tacoma appeared on the map of speculators, pioneers, and fortune-hunters…the indigenous people of this region camped, fished and hunted on the shores of a cliff they called “near face”.

Like the point of an arrow, 702 acres of land juts out into the waters that ultimately become the Pacific Ocean. The Narrows is to the west and Commencement Bay to the east. Colvos Passage and Vashon Island are to the north, and then Puget Sound, then Admiralty Inlet, and then the Pacific.

In the mid-19th century Wilkes imagined the area to be the ideal location for a defensive fortress—the prominence would “bid defiance to any attack,” and so in 1866 President Andrew Johnson set aside 640 acres for a future military reservation. But military use of the land never came to fruition; after twenty years of sitting dormant plans were set in motion to convert the area into a city park. It was at about this time that urban planners throughout the nation were recognizing the need to aside green spaces for the enjoyment of all. New York City’s Central Park is a famous example of this movement. On December 17, 1888 President Grover Cleveland signed a Congressional Bill allowing Tacoma to use the point as a public park.

What is a "Point?"

Point is another term for peninsula, a piece of land that juts out from a larger land mass and is mostly surrounded by water.

The first visitors to the park arrived by street car and were treated to formal rose and Japanese gardens and a seaside resort. The resort with heated saltwater bathing has long since vanished. Although the formal gardens remain, Point Defiance Park is so much more than a collection of roses, rhododendrons, and dahlias. Today more than 3 million people visit the park each year. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

Map of Zoo and Aquarium

Map of Zoo and Aquarium

Why Point Defiance is a "Wonder"

  • A world-class zoo and aquarium (the only one on the west coast) entertain with a shark tank, Asian wildlife center, camel rides, red wolf habitat, and much more. There is a very successful wild cat breeding program. (When was the last time you saw a 4-week old clouded leopard being bottle fed?). Zookeepers and wildlife specialists provide educational talks for all ages throughout the day.
  • Point Defiance Park is home to Fort Nisqually, a living history museum. Fort Nisqually is a restoration of the Hudson's Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound. With the help of costumed interpreters, guests can experience life in Washington Territory during the mid 19th century. Nine buildings are open to the public, including the Granary and the Factors House, both National Historic Landmarks. There is also a Visitor Center with Museum Store.
  • Five Mile Drive offers the opportunity to explore old-growth forests and gain breathtaking views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains.
  • Trails for joggers, cyclists, and hikers crisscross the park.
  • You will find no “Keep Off the Grass” signs in this park. Running, playing, dog-walking, picnicking, and family fun are encouraged! Although there is no overnight camping, the park is open from dawn to dusk.
  • There is an authentic Japanese Garden and Pagoda.
  • Beach combers love exploring Owen Beach.
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History

In 1791 George Vancouver led an expedition to explore the Pacific region, travelling from Cape Town (Australia) to New Zealand, Tahiti, and China. He then traversed the Pacific Ocean, following the upper coastline to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and then surveyed every inlet and outlet of the mainland. Along the way he named some prominent geographic features after associates and friends, such as:

  • Mount Baker (3rd Lieutenant Joseph Baker, who was the first to notice it on the expedition)
  • Mount St. Helens (named after the 1st Baron St. Helens)
  • Puget Sound (after his lieutenant Peter Puget)
  • Mount Rainier (in honor of his friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier)

The indigenous peoples called the mountain Talol, or Tahoma [təqʷúʔbəʔ] ("mother of waters"), in the Lushootseed language spoken by the Puyallup people.

Many who live here would love to have the name restored to "Tahoma."


Why Mount Rainier is a "Wonder"

  • It's an active volcano!! Although Mount Rainier has not erupted as recently or as frequently as it's neighbor (Mount St. Helens), its proximity to large population centers makes it much more dangerous. About 80,000 people at the base of the volcano are at risk, along with major highways, hydroelectric dams, and seaports.
  • It is the highest mountain in the State of Washington (14,411 feet).
  • It has the most glaciers (26) of any peak in the contiguous United States.
  • Most "topographically prominent" mountain in the contiguous United States.

Despite the danger, Mount Rainier is one of the most stunningly beautiful peaks in our nation with multicolored carpets of wildflowers in late Spring, flaming colors of Autumn, and glistening glaciers all year. A scenic drive around the mountain takes about 2 1/2 hours.

There are numerous options for lodging or camping near the mountain. Inside the National Park are two historic lodges:

  • The National Park Inn, at Longmire, is at elevation 2,700 feet and is open year round. The Inn has 25 guest rooms, a full service dining room, a general store, and a post office. Reserve a room online at Mount Rainier Guest Services or call 360-569-2275 for more information.
  • Built in 1916, the Paradise Inn has retained its rustic style and is generally open mid-May through early October. Located at an elevation of 5,420 feet, the Paradise Inn has 121 guest rooms, a gift shop, post office, café, and full service dining room. Reserve a room online at Mount Rainier Guest Services or call 360-569-2275 for more information.
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History

For me, this one is personal. I worked for the U.S. Geological Survey from 1970 until my retirement three decades later.

On March 16, 1980 Mount St. Helens awakened from her volcanic slumber with a series of small earthquakes. Hundreds more followed and on March 27 a crater blasted through the ice cap. From that moment on Mount St. Helens became a very significant part of the research being conducted by our agency. Numerous scientists from State, National, and international agencies and academia gathered in our office to hypothesize and speculate, to share experience from other volcanic events around the globe--to brainstorm.

Within a week the crater had grown to about 1,300 feet in diameter and two giant cracks criss-crossed the entire summit. By May 17, more than 10,000 earthquakes had shaken the volcano and the north flank had grown outward at least 450 feet to form a noticeable bulge, evidence that magma (molten rock) was moving upward in the volcano.

On May 18, 1980 at 8:32 a.m. all Hell broke loose--literally!

This was one of the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic events in the history of the United States. In just a matter of hours, minutes, moments

  • Fifty-seven people were killed
  • 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed.

However, that is not the end of the story. In the days and weeks that followed the infamous volcanic eruption my husband, a geologist, began working in the debris flow, collecting data. He described the area as a moonscape--gray, devoid of all that is green and living; no birds, no insects, totally silent. A dead earth.

One year later I was assigned to work in the area--imagine my excitement at finding tadpoles in the shallows of the newly formed Crater Lake, and hearing the buzz of dragonflies.

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What Makes Mount St. Helens a Wonder Today?

Today, 36 years after the blast, there is much to see and celebrate at Mount St. Helens. Forests have re-emerged and wildlife have repopulated in abundance. Numerous county, State, and Federal visitor centers have been established to provide an abundance of information on this still active volcano. A visit to St. Helens should be on a clear day--when the weather is cloudy you will not be able to see the mountain. Here is a link that provides all the information you need to plan your trip:

Hall of Mosses in Quinault Rain Forest

Hall of Mosses in Quinault Rain Forest

History

Would it surprise you to learn that there is a rain forest in the State of Washington? (Actually there are four). The “rain” part should not come as a shock, but I will wager that when you think “rain forest” your thoughts go to lush, steamy, tropical jungles teeming with snakes and primates, wild cats, and magnificent floral displays. That, my friends, is a tropical rain forest.

Tropical rain forests lie near the equator; temperate rain forests are located near coastal areas. The former has a warm and moist climate; the latter is cool and moist.

The Quinault Rain Forest is one of four temperate rain forests on the western side of Washington State; it completely surrounds Lake Quinault and Lake Quinault Lodge. Moisture comes in the form of rain, drizzle (yes, there is a difference), and fog. Here rainfall is measured in feet, not inches. The average is 10 to 15 feet (120 up to 180 inches) of rainfall each year.

According to the Smithsonianmag.com, it is possible to explore the Amazon tropical rain forest and doing so might be worthy of entry on one’s bucket list; it covers more than 2 million square miles and is home to a third of the world’s species (mostly plants and insects). On the other hand the QuinaultRain Forest is much smaller. It has many varied and interesting plant and animal species, but certainly not one-third of the world population.

However, what Quinault Rain Forest lacks in diversity, it makes up for in accessibility. Touring the Amazon is certainly possible, but doing so is dangerous and professional guides are a must. On the other hand, I have hiked throughout the Quinault Rain Forest many times--no guide is needed--and each time I am absolutely….enchanted!

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What Makes the Quinault Rain Forest Wonderful?

It’s beautiful - The Quinault Rain Forest is truly enchanting. Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedar dominate the canopy. These massive conifers share the forest floor with Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. Sunlight filters through the lush green dome, allowing growth of an understory of big leaf maple and alder. Curtains of moss hang from every limb. The forest floor is home to countless ferns. Indian-Plum, salmonberry, thimbleberry, blueberry and wild blackberry bush offer soft pink blossoms for resident bees and hummingbirds in springtime, and succulent berries for birds and mammals in the summer. Like splatters of paint from an artist’s brush, bleeding heart, trillium, Indian paintbrush, mushrooms and lichens add splashes of color to the green canvas.

Because of the moisture found even in the air of the rain forest, spider webs are outlined with dew and provide a delicate lacy shroud to the forest’s bushes and trees.

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Creatures abound - The Forest is home to black bear, cougar, coyote, black-tailed deer, and many smaller mammals such as beaver, raccoon, bobcat, and river otter. Don’t let the presence of wild cats or bear dissuade you from hiking in this area. Cougars are solitary animals and cat-human encounters are extremely rare. Black bear move about as a family unit, but they too are by nature fearful of humans. Berries, frogs, fish, and smaller mammals provide a varied and essential diet for their populations; their presence is needed to maintain a natural balance of species.

The Quinault Rain Forest is also home to several herds of Roosevelt Elk. The elk forage in open areas, keeping understory growth in check. The herds form family units and travel together as a community, sharing in the raising of their calves.

Numerous bird species also make the Quinault Forest their home. Bald and golden eagle, osprey, hawk, and blue heron can all be observed along the banks of the Quinault River and Quinault Lake.

The moist forest floor provides a perfect environment for a most unusual-looking gastropod mollusk—the Columbia banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus). Banana slugs are large (at least six inches in length) and often bright yellow (hence the banana sobriquet). Unlike their brown garden-pest cousins, banana slugs eat only decaying vegetation.

Roosevelt elk

Roosevelt elk

banana slug

banana slug

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History

The year was 1962—The Cold War was heating up and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union was on fire. The Cuban Missile Crisis taught school-age children to drop and cover and backyard bomb shelters became more popular than swimming pools. The Telstar satellite was launched, making possible the first transatlantic television broadcast. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth and space exploration was the dream of every little boy.

Our future was in the stars, and what better way to inspire a nation than to host an exposition focusing on space-age innovation and technology. Thus Century 21 Expo (also known as the Seattle Worlds Fair) was born. In the six-month period of April through October 1962, almost 10 million people visited the center of the city to gain a glimpse of “tomorrow.”

Of the many structures built for the Expo, only five remain--the monorail, the food circus, Washington State Pavilion (now called Key Arena), the U.S. Science Pavilion (home to the Seattle Science Center), and, most famous of all, the Seattle Space Needle.

At 605-feet in height the Needle was (at that time) the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River; more than 2.3 million people toured the UFO-like tower; 54 years later it still receives more than 1 million visitors each year.

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What Makes the Space Needle Wonderful?

  • The elevator trip from base to top takes only 41 seconds (that’s 10 miles per hour)
  • Sky City Restaurant is at 500 feet. The restaurant makes a full rotation every 47 minutes.
  • An observation deck at 520 feet provides a 360 degree view of Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound area.
  • To stabilize the Needle, a concrete foundation plunges 30 feet into the earth
  • The entire structure was completed in just 400 days!
  • It is built to withstand winds up to 200 mph; it sways 1 inch for every 10 mph of wind
  • Earthquake safe up to a 9.1 magnitude quake
  • Topped with 25 lightning rods
  • Named as a historic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Board in 1999
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What do you think of when you hear the name “Seattle”? No doubt the Space Needle comes to mind (thank you Elvis, Sleepless in Seattle, and Frasier). But what else? Boeing? Starbucks?

What about the ‘flying fish’ at Pike Place Market?

Pike Place Market—home of flower farmers and fishmongers, artisans and arcades, buskers and baristas, and one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets. It is estimated that at least 10 million people visit this place each year.

I wrote a hub about this place about a year ago. Please click, read, and enjoy.

What Makes Pike Place Market Wonderful?

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History

The stock market crash of October 29, 1929 opened the door for panic on Wall Street and an ultimate downward spiral of the economy of the Western industrialized world. By 1933 13 to 15 million Americans (about 20 percent of the population) were unemployed and thousands of banks had closed their doors.

The presidential election of 1932 was the turning point—with little or no faith in the Hoover administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt won in a landslide decision. Immediately after his inauguration, Roosevelt (FDR) took steps to stabilize the economy. New legislation created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to protect deposits, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regulate the stock market, and the New Deal, the umbrella for a series of job creation and public works programs. One facet of the New Deal was the Public Works Administration, tasked with proving employment through development of large-scale projects. Some of the most notable works completed under the Public Works Administration include:

  • Lincoln Tunnel (New York City)
  • LaGuardiaAirport
  • TriboroughBridge, and
  • Grand Coulee Dam

According to the American Experience (History Channel)

…when construction was started on Grand Coulee Dam, everything about it was described in superlatives. It would be the "Biggest Thing on Earth," the salvation of the common man, a dam and irrigation project that would make the desert bloom, a source of cheap power that would boost an entire region of the country. Of the many public works projects of the New Deal, Grand Coulee Dam loomed largest in America's imagination, promising to fulfill President Franklin Roosevelt's vision for a "planned promised land" where hard-working farm families would finally be free from the drought and dislocation caused by the elements.

The dam creates a reservoir, named Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake or Lake Roosevelt, which has the capacity to irrigate more than 670,000 acres of land and provides about five million acre feet of space for flood control.

What Makes Grand Coulee Dam a Wonder?

Do you remember how this hub began? We were considering that the Pyramid of Giza is the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World. The original height of the Pyramid is 482 feet; it's base covers over 13 acres.

In comparison Grand Coulee Dam is 550 feet tall, from the 500 foot wide polished granite base, to the 30 foot wide crest which supports a paved two lane road. When you include the third power house, Grand Coulee Dam is almost 1 mile long--almost 4 times as large as the Pyramid of Giza.

© 2016 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 13, 2016:

Lawrence - Have you ever been to North America? If you ever have the opportunity I would vote for Washington. Yes, Point Defiance and Mount Rainier are absolute treasures. Thanks for stopping by.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on August 13, 2016:

Linda

Some great stuff to see here. Point Defiance and Mt Rainier were my favorites.

Lawrence

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 09, 2016:

Bravewarrior - You took my breath way. I am humbled by your praise. I do hope that you can some day return to revisit the site of the Seattle Worlds Fair, and the other areas as well. Of the seven I cannot pick a favorite. Rainier is glorious, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom, and the rain forest looks like an other-world--cool, glistening, and shrouded in mist. Who knew that so many shades of green exist.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 09, 2016:

Diva, you're one of the finest writers here at HP. You're fluent, imaginative and know how to put a sentence together better than most. And your topics are always interesting. I lived in Tacoma briefly when I was a little girl. I remember going to the Seattle World's Fair with my parents, but don't remember whether or not we toured the Needle. I have memories of it looming above us as we walked towards the fair, but that's about it. At least I can say I was there!

I'd love to visit the rain forest, Mt. Rainier and Point Defiance. Maybe someday.....

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 22, 2016:

Bill, I agree with you 100 percent (on all counts). I have traveled some, but never lived anywhere else. And my travels have told me that I don't WANT to live anywhere else.

Darn, I probably should have said that it rains all the time here.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 22, 2016:

I must love this state because I've been here sixty-two of my sixty-seven years. This is, for those who have never been here, a beautiful state. I hate saying that because I'm afraid thousands of Californians will flock north. LOL As always, a beautifully-written article, Linda!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 21, 2016:

Eric - How amazing that, just as your daughter happens to be here, I would write about my "home State." I do hope that you have an opportunity to visit, and goodness, if you do, I hope that Point Defiance will be on the list. It's just a hop, skip, and jump from my home to there.

I'm glad that you enjoyed the tour.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 21, 2016:

Thanks Flourish - Which two did you visit? I've been to all of them, and can't really pick a favorite. But it has been many years since I've been back to St. Helens. I would like to see it again--I am sure it is unrecognizable from what it was like in 1981.

I agree I would like to see other Hubbers take up the challenge and prepare a 7 wonders of their own.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 21, 2016:

I've visited two of these and would love to return to the area to visit the remaining sites. Wouldn't it be a grand idea if other Hubbers wrote their own 7 wonders lists for their geographic areas? I love your take on the 7 wonders idea.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 21, 2016:

Awesome, you are a great writer as a guide to your great state. I want to visit all of these and probably will. I don't know exactly where my youngest daughter is at the moment but she is somewhere around there just checking out the country.

Thank you for a lovely tour and really interesting info.