A research project in Washington, D.C.’s Olympic National Park thinks it has found the quietest place in the United States. It is now fighting to protect this spot and others like it across the country from the danger of noise pollution. ‘One square inch of silence’ can be found in a wild part of the park. You can listen to recordings online, and the area isn’t totally silent—there are only natural sounds. Researchers say that the park’s quiet areas are not well protected by current environmental laws, even though the park is one of the cleanest and most environmentally diverse places in the country.
This small area was set aside for a simple reason: noises like airplanes can be heard for miles, so even if you only protect one square inch, it will have a good effect on the area around it. Gordon Hempton, who started the project, is currently pushing for Olympic National Park to be named the first “Quiet Park” in the country. He thinks that this will be similar to many Dark Sky reserves around the world, which are places where people can see the stars without any light pollution. Still, the peace is always in danger because of more action at a nearby Naval Air Base and the ongoing growth of Seattle-Tacoma Airport.
Hikers are told to go find this peaceful spot on their own, but they should be as quiet as possible while they’re there. When you get there, there will be a jar with notes of “quiet thoughts.” You can add your own. People can read them, but they should not copy them or take pictures of them. Instead, they should leave them where they are.
Are you ready to make the trip? The “square inch of silence” is 3.2 miles from the Visitor’s Center on the Hoh River Trail, which takes about two hours of easy hiking. There is a red stone on top of a moss-covered log that marks the spot. You can also use the coordinates N 48.12885°, W 123.68234° or the directions given here to find it.
On the bright side, some people are realizing how important silence is, if not for the environment then for their mental health. There are more and more silent retreats in the health industry right now, though this one isn’t quite as quiet as the one in Olympic National Park.