Hidden Treasures of Tumwater Historical Park

On any nice day (and even on many not-so-nice days), you’ll find crowds of people hanging out at Olympia’s Heritage Park and walking around Capitol Lake. It’s with good reason, of course, as both are excellent places to enjoy the outdoors. Not far at all from those spots, though, is the much quieter, secret gem of Tumwater Historical Park.

You can actually walk the whole way from Heritage Park to Tumwater Historical Park without having to cross any streets (the park’s location is pinned to the map at the end of this article). You can follow the paved walk that goes around the lake and then dip down the trails leading through the Interpretive Park and walk the whole way without having to worry about traffic.

Olympia, Washington—An Endless Procession of the Species

Or, you can just drive there. It’s simple enough to find.

Either way, you’ll find a spot much quieter and more private than Heritage Park. Even on sunny days, the number of visitors never strains the park’s capacity. I don’t know why this is. I only know that the huge grassy space and trails there rarely have more than a handful of people.

I’ve had many days where I bummed around Heritage Park and found it crammed with people, then skipped over the the Historical Park and found it nearly empty.

Even those who know of the park, I think, largely don’t realize all the hidden historical gems there. I assume this is the case, anyway, because I’ve been going to this park for years and only recently learned that it’s named Tumwater Historical Park and that it’s full of neat stuff.

I usually go there to relax in the lawn and get some sun or read a book in peace and quiet.

For starters, the park is an official Blue Star Memorial Highway point. I’d never heard of this organization until stumbling upon this marker (which is in the parking lot and concealed by bushes), but it’s a project of the National Garden Clubs.

The markers are placed in honor of the United States Armed Forces. I have to say that I found it somewhat disrespectful that park maintenance has allowed this sign to be partially swallowed up by vegetation, BUT it’s also kind of cool because now the sign is sort of like a hidden artifact.

What is not so hidden is the pair of houses you can find atop the hill where the road leads down into the park.

House at Tumwater Historical Park.
The interior of this house can be toured at certain times. It’s got beautiful landscaping and an educational flower garden.

 

A house from the early 20th Century.
As the placard in the lower screen says, this is a house from the early 20th Century. It’s so beautifully maintained that I didn’t realize it was a historical site until happening by and seeing the placard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These sites aren’t going to blow many minds, I’d wager, but they make Tumwater Historical Park a great little spot for a lazy weekend afternoon. For history buffs such as myself, they’re a bona fide destination.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than taking in some history, and Tumwater Historical Park is a great place to explore and feel the tides of Time lapping around your feet.

You don’t even need to visit the historical sites to enjoy the park. It’s got a huge playground for kids and a great big stretch of grass for soaking up the sun or throwing a ball around.

But, if you happen to be a history enthusiast, it’s got some real magic to offer—and it’s all free!