Meet the Queets

Posted by Ken Campbell May 28, 2009 0 Comment 893 views

“Out of the dirt of the skin.” That’s what the word Queets means, translated directly from the Quinault original. The story, as I’ve heard it told, is that the Great Spirit Kwate was out walking on the beach one day and came to the banks of the river. He had been walking a while and decided to take a break here, rest his legs and meditate a bit. (Which begs the question, “What could a god possibly have to meditate about?”)

He crossed the mouth of the river, swimming through the deeper sections, and reached the other side, where he sat down on the sandy bank. As he rubbed his chilled legs to restore circulation, little balls of dirt formed on his palms. He pressed them together to form two larger balls of dirt, then tossed them into the river. The lumps of clay were transformed, and thus was created the first people of the Quinault, the first man and woman in the valley and the ancestors of the present native population. “From this time you shall remain on this river,” Kwate told the couple, “and your name shall be ‘K’ witz qu, because from the dirt of the skin you were made.”

The Queets River runs about 50 miles from its source at the Humes Glacier on the slopes of Mount Olympus. The majority of those miles run through National Park land, with the final 4 miles or so at the mouth being on reservation land. The Queets is a big river, draining one of the peninsulas largest watersheds – its main tributary, the Clearwater, is a significant Olympic river in its own right.

Water can be swift here during the runoff. Volumes approaching 100,000 cfs are not uncommon. Logs, carried from the high country in the torrent, are piled together in places, changing the course of the river from year to year. Salmon and steelhead have healthy runs here, and the water is among the cleanest on the peninsula.

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