Tamanowas Rock

Gene Jones

Gene Jones, Sr.

Over fifty years ago, five-year-old Gene Jones of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe stood on Tamanowas Rock with his grandfather, who told Gene that one day he would have to fight for this place. His grandfather was right.

“It’s the most sacred place… It’s the home of our ancestors. Our spirits are there.”

– Gene Jones, Sr. of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe

A Bird’s-Eye View

From above, some say east Jefferson County looks like a dragon. At the heart of that dragon is Tamanowas Rock, a rough, egg-shaped monolith rising 150 feet above the trees. Streaked with moss and pocked with caves and crevasses, the top offers a panoramic view of Chimacum Valley. At ground level, it is surrounded by open fields, some old-growth trees and wetlands.

A sacred ceremonial and gathering site for over 10,000 years, Tamanowas Rock stands over a valley steeped in rich cultural history and ecological diversity. This area is the traditional territory of the Chimacum people, whose population was diminished as a result of disease and warfare. However, the remaining Chimacum people were absorbed by the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish tribes. For the S’Klallam people of the Jamestown, Port Gamble and Lower Elwha Tribes, Tamanowas Rock is a site of cultural and spiritual significance.

Elk, cougar, coyote, deer and other small mammals live in or migrate through the area. Songbirds, raptors and eagles come to forage, perch and feed. Amphibians inhabit the wetlands, and the surrounding upland forests provide overwintering habitat for several species.

The Preservation Story

Everyone thought Tamanowas Rock would be there forever. Then one day, Gene Jones got a phone call saying the land had been sold and would be developed for housing.

That was in the early 1990s. Faced with the possibility that the Rock would be destroyed to build condominiums, Gene Jones and the Jamestown S’klallam Tribe sprang into action.

Tamanowas-rock1More than two decades of meetings, negotiations, fundraising and community collaboration followed. Early attempts to purchase the rock from the developer were unsuccessful, and as gravel roads were built and some of the forest near the Rock was logged, a coalition was forged between Jefferson Land Trust, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, local investors, Washington State Parks, Northwest Watershed Institute and the Jefferson County Conservation Futures Fund.

The first 20 acres were purchased by the S’Klallam Tribe in 2005, just north of the Rock. Over the next few years, the protected area grew through a combination of cooperative ventures with Washington State Parks, which extended the boundaries of nearby Anderson Lake State Park, and our purchase of conservation easements.

In 2009, the parcel of land we had all been waiting for — the land on which Tamanowas Rock stood — came up for sale, listed at $1.2 million. The group negotiated a sale to Jefferson Land Trust for half the price, paid for through a low-interest loan from the Bullitt Foundation and $120,000 from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe with an option to purchase. An additional $40,000 in community support helped to cover the costs of acquisition, protection and stewardship.

In December 2012, more than 20 years after Gene Jones received that phone call, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe purchased Tamanowas Rock from Jefferson Land Trust.

The Protected Property Today

  • The Tamanowas Sanctuary is now a permanently protected area that includes Tamanowas Rock and 82 acres of surrounding forest, wetlands and open space.
  • Protecting Tamonowas Rock was never just about preserving land. Visitors had long been coming to the Rock for picnics, campfires and rock climbing, and as parts of it became covered with graffiti, climbing anchors and steel cables, the S’klallam Tribe wanted to restore and protect the sacred identity of the Rock, too.
  • Today, the area is open to all — tribal citizens, members and citizens of other tribes, the local community and visitors to the area — but the Sanctuary does not allow motorized vehicles, rock climbing, horses, bicycles, hunting, camping or pets. The S’Klallam Tribe also reserves the right to close the property occasionally to the public during tribal ceremonies.
  • The fight for Tamanowas Rock foretold by Gene Jones’s grandfather is now over, and generations can rest assured that this sacred site is protected forever.