What is One Square Inch?
One Square Inch of Silence is the quietest place in the United States. Located in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park, it is 3.2 miles from the Visitor’s Center above Mt. Tom Creek Meadows on the Hoh River Trail. Hiking time from the parking lot at the Visitor’s Center to the site is approximately two hours along a gentle path lined by ancient trees and ferns. The exact location is marked by a small red-colored stone placed on top of a moss-covered log at N 48.12885°, W 123.68234°, 303 feet above sea level.
One Square Inch of Silence was designated on Earth Day 2005 (April 22, 2005) to protect and manage the natural soundscape in Olympic Park’s backcountry wilderness. The logic is simple; if a loud noise, such as the passing of an aircraft, can impact many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a 100% noise-free condition, will also impact many square miles around it. It is predicted that protecting a single square inch of land from noise pollution will benefit large areas of the park.
The hope is that this simple and inexpensive method of soundscape management will prove to be a valuable resource management tool towards fulfilling a goal of NPS Management Policy, Chapter 4.9 Soundscape Management. The National Park Service will preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the natural soundscapes of parks. Natural soundscapes exist in the absence of human-caused sound. The Service will restore degraded soundscapes to the natural condition wherever possible, and will protect natural soundscapes from degradation due to noise (undesirable human-caused sound).
One Square Inch of Silence is an independent research project. The National Park Service will promote relationships with individuals and organizations qualified to perform research, and encourage them to direct their research toward park management objectives and the broader contexts within which park resources exist (Chapter 5.1.2 Independent Research).
Olympic National Park was chosen for One Square Inch because it has a diverse natural soundscape combined with substantial periods of natural quiet. Unlike other national parks, such as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon or Hawaii Volcanoes, air tourism is undeveloped and roads do not divide park lands. Because there are few noise intrusions in the backcountry wilderness, noise sources are easier to identify at Olympic than at other parks. The variety of natural soundscapes presented by different habitat types such as alpine glaciers, rain forests, lakes and streams, and wilderness beach provide meaningful examples of soundscape beauty. When a noise intrusion has occurred at One Square Inch and the responsible party is asked to quiet down, a sample of the natural soundscape of Olympic Park is provided on audio CD. The audio CD ends with a noise intrusion, making it easy to understand that noise causes real destruction of the park experience. The need for corrective action is obvious.
Olympic National Park is an area of exceptional natural beauty. It contains the largest and best example of virgin temperate rain forest in the western hemisphere, the largest intact stand of coniferous forest in the contiguous 48 states, and the largest truly wild herd of Roosevelt elk. It features 57 miles of spectacular coastline (the largest section of coast in the lower 48 states) and numerous offshore islands combined with heavily forested mountain slopes, alpine parklands and glacier-capped mountains in scenic splendor. Jagged, glacier-capped peaks rise nearly 8000 feet above sea level. 200 inches of precipitation falls annually on some of the higher peaks.
The park contains one of the most pristine ecosystems in the contiguous United States with over 1200 higher plants, over 300 species of birds and over 70 species of mammals. At least eight species of plants and 18 species of animals are found only on the Olympic Peninsula and nowhere else in the world. Twelve major rivers and 200 smaller streams provide a rich habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures.
Olympic Park is a designated Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Park.