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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

July 23, 2012 at 7:36 AM

Free, ranger-guided exploration walks now available in the Elwha

Curious to see the changes under way in the Elwha as the dams come down in the world’s largest ever dam removal project? You are in luck.

Olympic National Park rangers are leading guided interpretive walks along the Elwha River where Lake Aldwell used to be. The walks, offered through Sept. 2, are a chance to see the new landscape emerging, with its shifting sediments, giant stumps logged a century ago, plants getting a foothold, and the river re-establishing itself.

stump.jpg

Giant stumps from trees logged off before Lake Aldwell, the reservoir behind Elwha Dam, was filled, loom in the sediment left behind after the lake drained. Elwha Dam, 108 feet high and built beginning in 1910, was removed by contractors last March. Glines Canyon dam, 210 feet high and completed in 1927 a little more than 8 miles upriver, will be gone by May of next year.

Lynda Mapes photo

The walks are free and begin at the former boat launch located at the end of Lake Aldwell Road. To get there, take Highway 101 past Port Angeles, toward Forks. Turn north — sharp right– off 101 immediately after the Elwha River bridge. Wear sturdy walking shoes or boots and be prepared for wind and sun — there is no shade at all. The guided walks last about one hour, and leave the boat ramp at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Feel free to keep on walking after the tour ends.

For more information, call the Elwha Ranger Station at 360-452-9191.

For more info on the dam removal project, check the webcams keeping an eye on the project and take a look at the park service’s dam removal blog.

For more tips on exploring the Elwha, and see photos of some of what is in store for you, see my eariler post in Field Notes. For more background on the restoration, and to watch a video on the $325 million restoration, take a look at our Seattle Times Special Report.

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