Driving Across Jefferson County

Driving Across Jefferson County
The Jefferson County Sign on U.S. 101

There’s a bit of a conundrum in the title of this post. You can’t drive across Jefferson County. One of four counties created by the Oregon Territorial Legislature in 1852, Jefferson County originally included all of the northern end of the Olympic Peninsula. With the creation of Clallam County sixteen months later, western Jefferson County was cut off from the eastern part of the County. You can read more about the history and culture of Jefferson County on my Evergreen blog post. This post will describe two drives I’ve taken across Jefferson County.

Way back in 1972, I was in Grad School at U.C. Berkeley. I had spent the summer of 1971 living in Paris, in a small hotel that catered to students. One of my friends there was Hans-Peter Schöni from the city of Basel in Switzerland. In 1972, Hans-Peter was living in suburban Los Angeles where he studied Chiropractic medicine. He had invited me to join him and another Swiss student on a Spring Break trip to Mexico, and I went along happily.

During the Summer, Hans-Peter wanted to drive across the North American continent to visit another friend he had in Boston. Again, he invited me to ride along. He drove north from Los Angeles to pick me up in the Bay Area, and we headed first north, then east. On the north-bound portion, we switched back and forth between US 101 and I 5, and in Washington State, we drove 101 up the western side of the Olympic Peninsula.

Olympic National Park

I no longer remember where we camped the night we spent in Jefferson County. It was on the beach, and not far from the highway. That doesn’t leave many choices. Most probably we camped at South Beach. The Olympic National Park website lists fourteen campgrounds in the Park, and South Beach is the only one that matches my almost fifty-year old memories. I do remember a ranger coming by and suggesting that we move our tent up from the beach. Apparently they expected a tsunami, and did not consider beach camping safe.

The Olympic National Park Sign near Queets, Washington

Olympic National Park covers much of Jefferson County. The Park and the Olympic Mountain Range cut western Jefferson County off from the more populous eastern Jefferson County. U.S. Highway 101 circles the Olympic Peninsula, which includes Clallam County. That makes it impossible to drive across Jefferson County.


I haven’t stayed at the Kalaloch Lodge, so I cannot recommend it. If you’re just not up to camping, Kalaloch is one of a few places in the area you can find a bed. With 64 rooms, only 25 have ocean views. I did stop to take photos, and I can recommend the scenery. Perhaps on my next trip, I’ll visit the lodge.

Just up the road a ways is Ruby Beach, the northern most Olympic National Park beach in Jefferson County. On my 2016 drive, I pulled off the road to grab some photos. I felt time fleeing, so I didn’t walk the trail down to the beach. You can get an idea of how far the parking lot is from the beach by the size of the people in this photo.

A view through the trees of Ruby Beach from the parking lot--driving across Jefferson County
View of Ruby Beach from the Parking Lot

Just north of Ruby Beach, Highway 101 turns inland and follows the Hoh River. After a while, it crosses the river and heads back toward the northwest and Clallam County. You won’t find any amenities until you get to the town of Forks, which I’ll describe in a later post. For more information on Olympic National Park, I heartily recommend OutsideHow.

Port Townsend

U.S. Highway 101 does not pass through Port Townsend. Instead you turn off 101 onto Washington 20 at Fairmount and drive up the eastern shore of Discovery Bay. Captain George Vancouver named Port Townsend and recognized its value as a safe harbor. Today it is a colorful waterfront town with less than 10,000 residents. I’m afraid I haven’t spent enough time in the city to get a real feel for it. In 1972, we drove through and caught a ferry crossing to Whidbey Island. In 2016, I grabbed several photos of the County Courthouse. Then I rushed south in heavy rain, returning to my base in Seattle.

Next trip, I’ll devote quite a bit of time to Port Townsend. I also want to visit the communities that make up eastern Jefferson County. I want to visit Fort Worden, Irondale and Marrowstone Island, all of which I describe in my Evergreen post.

Guest Site of the Day

Today’s Guest Site talks about last year’s Port Townsend Artisan Food Festival. I doubt, with the current situation, that there will be a 2020 Festival, but I hope it continues in the future and that I can attend. Tied to the Port Townsend Farmer’s Market, the article linked here makes the event sound truly enjoyable.

Video of the Day

Neither today’s video nor the Recipe of the Day have any connection to Jefferson County, but both sounded appropriate to me. The Video showcases the University of Pittsburgh’s Heinz Chapel Choir, directed by Dr. Susan Rice. The group performs Ben Bram’s arrangement of His Eye is on the Sparrow. Just a bit of comfort in these extremely uncomfortable times.

As for the Recipe of the Day, this Light Avocado and Mango Salsa recipe really should have been posted yesterday. Cinco de Mayo. It sounds delicious, and I intend to pick up the ingredients when we’re shopping this afternoon. Even though I know Kevin won’t eat any of it. Hey, I’m entitled to have a few dishes I enjoy, right?

And in Closing….

I hope you have enjoyed this drive across Jefferson County, Washington with me. I promise that the next time I visit this lovely part of Washington State, I’ll spend more time, take a lot more photos and notes, and I’ll be sure to share the experience with you.



4 Comments on “Driving Across Jefferson County

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