Forest EcologyGoldmyer Hot Springs is located in one of the last remaining intact ancient forest ecosystems in North America. Goldmyer lies at 1800 to 2000 feet elevation on a north facing slope on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. While only 30 miles west of Seattle, Goldmyer receives over twice the amount of rainfall, placing it within range of being a temperate zone rainforest.
The upper Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley that surrounds Goldmyer has never been logged and is home to many species of plants and animals only found in rare old-growth forests. Huge fallen trees provide biomass for the forest floor and a growth medium for younger trees. Northwest ancient forests provide more biomass than even South American rain forests.
You will find a diverse forest full of multiple layers of habitat ranging from deep shade under the dense canopy of towering conifers, to small areas open to dabbled light by fallen trees, to rocky musical stream sides.The forest canopy is towered by up to 8- foot diameter 900 year old Pacific silver fir, Douglas fir, Western hemlock, Western red cedar, and the occasional Grand fir. The medium range habitat is filled by the rare Pacific yew, along with vine maple and alder in brighter areas.
Varieties of berry producing bushes include salmonberry, thimbleberry, red and blue huckleberry, and Pacific trailing blackberry. The forest floor is home to various fern species including sword, deer, oak, and wood ferns, along with the rarer pyrolas, twin flower, rattlesnake orchid, queen’s cup, dwarf bramble, tiger lilies, rein orchid, tway blades, twisted stalks, and many other species. Bizarre coral roots and Indian pipes that live in a symbiotic relationship with the living forest and produce no chlorophyll of their own. Many species of moss carpet the forest floor.
The forest is also home to many species of mammals, birds, insects, fungi, and amphibians including the rare pacific giant salamander. Garter and small rubber boa snakes can occasionally be seen crossing a path or curled up between rocks by the hot springs, neither is dangerous to humans. Douglas squirrels and chipmunks scurry up and down giant trees or run along ‘tree freeways’ of fallen conifers, filling the forest with their chatter and whistles.
At night the flying squirrels come out, along with the owls. Black bear are common in the area, mostly seen along the hiking routes in late spring as they emerge from hibernation. Black bear are not particularly aggressive towards humans, but visitors should be aware and steer clear of them. Occasionally cougar or bobcat, usually the tail disappearing into the underbrush, is spotted or footprints seen in the snow.