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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

February 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Landscape beneath former Lake Aldwell revealed

As dam removal continues on the Elwha River, the landscape above the dams is transforming dramatically. Already, large portions of the lake bed beneath Lake Aldwell are revealed. John Gussman, the photographer making a documentary film about the Elwha, sent me these photos over the weekend from his most recent trip to the Elwha. The before and after at Lake Aldwell is a shocker:

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Photographer John Gussman shows the before and after at Lake Aldwell. Photos courtesy of John Gussman

To see more, take a look at these photographs on his website. To me some of the most amazing views are of the gigantic cedar stumps, from old growth giants cut a century ago when Elwha Dam was being built. The first thing to go, of course, were the trees.

The sediment terraces left behind as the water levels drop will be a major revegetation challenge, both for nature, and for crews actively re-planting the area.

The National Park Service blog also has some eye-opening photos. Work continues for two weeks at a time, then is paused for two weeks to let the river work back and forth across the sediment terraces to erode as much material downstream as possible. The goal is to leave a more natural — and stable — landscape behind as the river sluices the material out.

Here’s another amazing view: the now exposed spill gates at Glines Canyon Dam, left high and dry as Lake Mills drops:

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The spill gates at Glines Canyon … with no water to spill. Photo from National Park Service blog

Meanwhile at Elwha Dam, there’s … practically no dam. Contractors have already removed nearly all of the landmark structures at the site. The powerhouse, the surge tank, the power lines. Have a look:

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SCREEN GRAB FROM PROJECT WEB CAM

Elwha Dam … going … going …

For more on the dam removal project, including revegetation and sediment management, read our special report in the Seattle Times

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