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LocalGoodbye dams!

November 21, 2011


Elwha River

Elwha River

Photographer: Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times .

Every year, thousands of salmon swim to the base of Elwha Dam and stop. They cannot swim home to spawn (lay eggs). But these frustrated fish have a wonderful surprise in their future. On September 17, 2011, the National Park Service began to remove the first of two old and no-longer-useful dams on the Elwha River in the Olympic National Forest. In 2½ years the river will run freely to the ocean again and the salmon can return to the upper Elwha River to restore life there.

In the early 1900s, building dams to generate cheap hydroelectric power was popular. The Elwha Dam was built in 1913, and the Glines Canyon Dam, also on the Elwha River, was built in 1927. The dams blocked spawning salmon from reaching 90 percent of their habitat. With no salmon to hunt, many bears, otters, eagles and ospreys left. One hundred years ago, nearly 400,000 salmon returned to the Elwha River to spawn each year. Today the number is only about 3,000.

When the dams were built, water filled the valleys behind them and destroyed forests. These lake reservoirs also trapped river gravel from the mountains. When dam removal is complete, the two reservoirs, Lake Aldwell and Lake Mills, will empty. The river will return to its original shape, and Douglas fir and cottonwood will reforest the area.  Gravel will move downstream for salmon to use as nests.

It will take time, but the dream of the native people will come true. Robert Elofson of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe said,”Our hope is that our grandkids can see the same Elwha River that our grandparents saw.”

Published November 2011

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Comments (3)


  1. whoah this weblog is excellent i love reading your articles. Stay up the good work! You realize, a lot of persons are searching round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  2. Appreciate it for helping out, great information.

  3. Kyunghee Min says:

    I like this article. Ths most interesting thing is that the river will run freely to the oceans and the salmon will return. I know that dam give us natural advantage, but sometime it give us artifical disadvantage. I want to be there several years later.

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