Blog Post Jennifer Errick Feb 11, 2015

Trivia Challenge: The Quietest Place in the Contiguous United States

It’s no surprise that national parks offer a sense of serenity and an escape from noise. According to a specialized researcher who has been analyzing sound recordings for more than three decades, one park contains the “quietest square inch” in the Lower 48. Can you name this park?

A: According to One Square Inch, a protection project launched by acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, the quietest square inch in the continental United States is “marked by a small red-colored stone placed on top of a moss-covered log at 47° 51.959N, 123° 52.221W, 678 feet above sea level.”

In case that description doesn’t ring a bell, this peaceful inch is part of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, about a two-mile walk from the visitor center on the Hoh River Trail. It makes sense that this spot would have a special tranquility, surrounded as it is by lush trees and the flowing waters of the Hoh River, all within the largest wilderness area in Washington State.

Hempton isn’t taking it for granted, however.

When Hempton began researching noise pollution in the 80s, he found roughly a dozen sites in Washington State without interference from human-influenced noises. In the early 90s, there were just three. Now, he believes there are just three in the entire continental United States.

Hempton has taken actions to defend this rare space, including requesting that airlines reroute flights to avoid it. He launched the One Square Inch campaign to motivate other advocates and raise awareness around Americans’ decreasing access to quiet. Fortunately, Park Service management of this land should help maintain its peacefulness. Soundscape protection is an integral part of the agency’s mission, with its own team of dedicated scientists and technicians.

Hempton believes that, much as the sound of a plane affects noise levels for miles around it, a sense of quiet creates its own ripple, and protecting this one square inch of land will improve the soundscape for 1,000 square miles around it. Watch the video clip below from a larger documentary on his work to hear him explain the significance of this protection work in his own words, and visit the One Square Inch website to hear what this special spot sounds like.

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