Water temperature in the Lower Quinault River, Olympic Peninsula, Washington, June 2016 - August 2017

Open-File Report 2018-1129
Prepared in cooperation with the Quinault Indian Nation
By: , and 



The availability of cold-water refugia during summertime river-water temperature maximums is important for cold-water fish species including Endangered Species Act listed salmonids since water temperature influences metabolism, growth, and phenology. The U.S. Geological Survey monitored water temperature at 10 sites approximately evenly-spaced along the lower Quinault River on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, from June 2016 to August 2017 to assess thermal conditions in the lower river. During this 15-month period, there was a near-continuous, 15-minute record at 7 of the sites; complications with thermistors at 3 of the 10 sites limited the temperature dataset to include only summer 2016. In addition, near-streambed and water-surface temperatures were measured along the lower river during a longitudinal survey from August 9 to 12, 2016, during summer baseflow conditions to potentially identify cold or cooler water regions. Measured August water temperatures were warmer than model-predicted August temperatures for the period, 1993–2011. Summertime (July–September) daily minimum temperatures exceeded established salmon habitat threshold temperatures of 16 °C (core summer season) and 17.5 °C (spawning, rearing, and migration periods) for 122 and 65 days, respectively, on average at all monitoring sites with a complete 15-month record that included two summer baseflow periods. Summertime water temperatures at those sites were generally cooler in the downstream direction along the lower Quinault River but became warmer in the downstream direction during the rest of the year, suggesting the river was influenced by diffuse discharge of groundwater with a relatively constant annual temperature. The August longitudinal temperature survey did not detect cold-water refugia (features more than 3 °C cooler than ambient stream water), although it did identify 11 cooler water features (CWF) approximately 100–800 m in length that were 0.1 °C cooler than adjacent upstream or downstream water. The CWFs appeared to correspond to local geomorphic conditions. In August 2017, 10 of the 11 CWFs were field surveyed, and 5 appeared to be influenced by shading from solar radiation by riparian vegetation or steep cliff banks. In addition, field observations suggest that finer scale (that is, less than 10 m) CWFs, specifically individual side pools associated with large, in-channel wood, increased in frequency in the downstream direction along the lower Quinault River. However, this study did not quantify the density or water temperatures associated with these fine-scale features that may serve as cool- or cold-water pockets or patches.

Suggested Citation

Jaeger, K.L., Curran, C.A., Wulfkuhle, E.J., and Opatz, C.O., 2018, Water temperature in the lower Quinault River, Olympic Peninsula, Washington, June 2016–August 2017: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018-1129, 24 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181129.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results and Discussion
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Water temperature in the Lower Quinault River, Olympic Peninsula, Washington, June 2016 - August 2017
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1129
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181129
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Washington Water Science Center
Description Report: iv, 24 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Lower Quinault RIver, Olympic Peninsula
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details