Lake Crescent, Washington, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Washington - Olympic Peninsula & Pacific Coast -

Also known as:  Crescent Lake

Lake Crescent is a majestic glacial lake located at the northern tip of the Olympic National Forest in Clallam County, Washington. Glaciers during the last ice age carved a deep valley in the Olympic Mountains through which Indian Creek flowed. A massive landslide about 8,000 years ago dammed the creek, creating 5,127-acre Lake Crescent. Water flowing into the valley eventually found an outlet into the Lyre River, which follows a route north over the Lyre River Falls before emptying into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Today, several creeks feed into the lake, including Barnes, Smith, Aurora, Lapoel, Cross, and Eagle Creeks.

Lake Crescent is serenely scenic, nestled at the base of Mount Storm King, an imposing 4,534-foot peak located on the south side of the lake. Most of Lake Crescent’s shoreline is mountainous, except at either end. Known for its pristine turquoise water, Lake Crescent is 8.5 miles long and reaches depths of 624 feet, one of the deepest lakes in Washington state. The bottom of the lake is actually below sea level. Local native legend claims that Mount Storm King grew tired of fighting between the Clallam and Quileute tribes, so he threw giant rocks to stop the warring. The rocks created the deep depression that is now Lake Crescent.

Found in the crystal blue water of Lake Crescent are two unique trout species, the Beardsley (a subspecies of rainbow trout) and the Crescenti (a subspecies of cutthroat). The Beardsley trout are known to reach large size and put up a good fight. However, due to their declining population, catch and release rules are now in effect to protect and preserve this native trout found nowhere else on earth. There is healthy fly fishing for steelhead trout and salmon in the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula’s West End, from the Lyre River on the northeast to the Quinault River on the southwest.

In addition to fishing, Lake Crescent is popular for boating, kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, camping, hiking, bird watching, and picnicking. Boat rentals are available through resorts scattered along the shoreline. Although there is not much aquatic life in Lake Crescent, shore dives to an underground forest and to sunken boats is easy due to the extremely clear water and lack of current. Light penetrates deeply into the lake’s clear waters, so divers are cautioned not to dive deeper than planned and to fly a dive flag.

Lake Crescent is roughly 15 miles west of Port Angeles on US 101. The highway runs the length of the lake along the southern shore, just a few feet above the water for a striking view of the lake and surrounding mountains. Just off of US 101 is the Storm King Ranger Station with trailheads to the Moments in Time Nature Trail and the Barnes Creek Trail to Marymere Falls. The ranger station offers modern bathrooms, picnic facilities, docks, and a boat ramp. The Moments in Time Trail is a 1/2 mile loop along the banks of Lake Crescent through massive cedar and Douglas fir trees. The Barnes Creek Trail is a one mile hike to the stunning 90-foot Marymere Falls. The one mile Storm King Trail splits from the Marymere trail and climbs more than 3,000 feet with beautiful views across the lake. The National Park Service recommends against climbing to the summit due to hazardous conditions.

Along Lake Crescent’s northern shore are the Spruce Railroad Trail and the Pyramid Peak Trail; both reward hikers with beautiful lake vistas. The Spruce Railroad Trail follows an old railroad built during World War I to transport Sitka Spruce trees to Seattle. Pyramid Peak is accessible from the Spruce Railroad Trail. It is a strenuous hike, a 3-1/2 mile climb to the summit at 3,125 feet with views all the way to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Lake Crescent area is prime bird watching territory. Hikers will be treated to views of the American dipper, gray jays, thrushes (particularly along the waterfall trail), warblers, flycatchers, and vireos during the daytime. Nighttime sightings include the Northern pygmy, Northern saw-whet, and barred owl.

Lake Crescent accommodations include campgrounds and vacation rental homes, or for a historic and luxurious stay, check out the Lake Crescent Lodge, built in 1916. Famous visitors included President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937. Rowboats are available to rent from the lodge. Homes line small coves along the tranquil northern edge of the lake. Another option for visiting is the Log Cabin Resort on the northeast shore of the lake. There you can rent A-frame chalets and rustic cabins, as well as campsites and RV hook-ups. Boat, canoe, and kayak rentals are also available.

Olympic National Park has 16 campgrounds operated by the National Park Service. The Fairholm Campground is located at the west end of Lake Crescent. The campground is open from April through mid-fall with a boat launch nearby; RVs and trailers up to 21 feet can be accommodated. Also at the western end of the lake is the Fairholm General Store and Cafe, where s’mores and other supplies can be found. There are campsites and RV hook-ups on site, plus a cafe serving hot meals on a deck over the lake. The general store also rents motor boats, rowboats and canoes to get you out on the water.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head for Olympic National Park to spend quality time on and off the waters of Lake Crescent.

Things to do at Lake Crescent

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Waterfall
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest

Fish species found at Lake Crescent

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Trout

Lake Crescent Photo Gallery

Lake Crescent Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 5,127 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 580 feet

Average Depth: 300 feet

Maximum Depth: 624 feet

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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