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Reborn Elwha River Flows Again

Olympic National Park

National Park News

The lake that was behind the Elwha Dam is now gone and the Elwha is once again functioning as a river as it courses through the old lake bed. As the river's flow returns, it is actively eroding and transporting decades’ worth of accumulated lake bed sediments downstream.

Much of the fine sediment is being carried well out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Some of it is being redeposited in calm areas along the lower river and the sediment team is finding the beginnings of fine-grained beaches forming at the river's mouth.

The May-June fish window is in effect and all in-water and sediment-releasing work is on hold for two months. Barnard crews are still busy though, working at the former Elwha Dam site to restore the area's original landscape contours.

At Glines Canyon, explosives technicians will begin drilling holes into the remaining above-water sections of the dam this week. Once the holes are finished, they will be packed with explosives in preparation for a carefully designed controlled blast. Additional controlled blasts or 'shots' are scheduled for the coming weeks as crews incrementally remove the above-water concrete.

The park has also just posted two exceptional videos (“webisodes”) on its Elwha river restoration web page. They are entitled “Elwha River Restoration” and “Restoration of the Elhwa Begins.” The former provides a historical overview; the latter focuses on the ceremonies launching the removal of the two dams.

For more information on the river’s restoration and some additional images, go to the park’s blog at the “More Information” link below.


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