Rialto Retreats

established in 1979

Before the establishment of our homestead, which is located in the middle of the Quilleute Prarie, the Quileute Indian tribe lived throughout large segments of land here. The Quileutes once occupied most of the middle-west Olympic Peninsula, from the region south of Ozette Lake, to land north of the Hoh Rainforest  extending to the Quinault River, including the area that Forks would one day occupy.

Over the next several decades, settlers made their way to the Forks prairie the only way they could - via boat to the shores of the Olympic Peninsula and then inland on primitive, and muddy, foot paths.

1884 was the year the post office was first set up, under the name Forks Prairie. By 1890, the town of Forks consisted of a hotel, hardware store, general store, and the scattered homes of the settlers.

The settlers were farmers, not loggers. Besides the vegetables, grains and forages needed by the community, the settlers attempted to raise and market hops. The crop grew very well, however the difficult logistics of getting the hops to market - transporting it either over land to Port Townsend (100 miles away) on muddy footpaths, or via boat - proved daunting. More often than not, the hops rotted before they reached market.

The Forks Cooperative Creamery swung into operation in the early 1900's, marketing milk locally, and butter to destinations as far away as Seattle.

Forks Wa History - Timber

It was inevitable that a town choked by trees would soon turn to those trees as a source of income. 

By the 1900's, timber camps were in full swing. A brutal hurricane in 1921 (winds to 170 miles per hour) flattened nearly 20% of the forests surrounding Forks Prairie. The ready availability of so many board-feet of wood just lying on the ground spurred timber harvesting efforts.

Bloedel-Donovan was a timber company that invested in thousands of acres in the Forks WA area in 1921. They built their own railroad line to Sekiu so logs could be floated in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and towed to Bellingham in huge rafts.

Timber development grew over the years. Every improvement to the infrastructure provided more avenues for transporting the logs. The Olympic Loop Highway (Highway 101) certainly helped. It was completed in 1931. 

Around this time ITT Rayonier began operations in the Forks region, employing hundreds of lumberjacks. To this day Rayonier owns more land than any other landowner in the west end of Clallam County.

On August 28, 1945, subsequent to a successful vote of the citizens, the town of Forks was officially incorporated under the name, Forks.

The timber industry continued to grow and then peaked in the 1970's. By then, Forks WA had earned the moniker, "Timber Capital of the World."

Timber harvesting has declined since then for several reasons, most of them environmental. As governmental legislation crippled the industry, mills were forced to close. The number of logging companies declined from 70 (in 1980) to 14 in 2001. The number of forest-related jobs diminished and unemployment soared. People left town to find their fortunes elsewhere, and the population dropped.