Changes to Visitor Services Due to Sequestration
Due to mandatory, across the board budget cuts, some visitor services at Olympic National Park have changed. See the Plan Your Visit section for more information.
Hurricane Ridge Road Closure for guard-rail work
Tueday, June 18 (6:00 AM - 11:00 AM)
Olympic Hot Springs Road Closed
The Elwha Valley's Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed to public entry beyond the Altair Campground during removal of the Glines Canyon Dam. Olympic Hot Springs is not accessible from the Elwha.
Elwha River Closures
Boating is prohibited on the Elwha River between Upper Lake Mills Trail and Altair Campground.
History of the Elwha - Overview
A man holds a salmon caught from the Elwha River.
One hundred years ago, entrepreneur Thomas Aldwell saw the river and its narrow gorges as an economic opportunity. He sought to harness this raw, massive energy, and so he formed plans to build a hydroelectric dam. With financial backing from Chicago investors, the Olympic Power Company was formed, and the plans for the dam were materialized when construction began, in 1910. Functional in 1913, the Elwha Dam supplied energy to power the pulp mill in Port Angeles. A growing economy and a greater demand for industry led to the decision to build another dam. By 1927 Glines Canyon Dam was built eight miles upstream. Power generated by the dams helped fuel the local economy, but the failure to build fish ladders left the Elwha River with a mere five miles of available habitat for returning anadromous fish.
The dams had a number of other serious impacts including sediment and silt blockage behind the dams, erosion of the river banks, and the effects on a huge portion of the park and people that previously relied on the anadromous populations for sustenance.
By the 1980s, perspectives had changed and legal challenges and policy questions arose about licensing a dam in a national park. After several years of political processes, Congress settled the issue in 1992 by passing the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act (pdf).
Today, the National Park Service is working closely with Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and many other partners to restore the Elwha River and its ecosystem. A number of related mitigation projects, including two water treatment plants and a greenhouse facility, have already been completed. This summer, work continues on a fish hatchery on the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe's reservation that will replace the tribe's existing hatchery. Modifications are also underway on a flood control levee to protect homes and facilities on the east side of the river; a levee on the river's west bank was completed earlier this summer.
Dam removal will begin in 2011.
This webpage was made possible in part by a grant from Washington's National Park Fund.
Did You Know?
That the Piper's bellflower is unique to the Olympic Mountains? Named after an early Olympic peninsula botanist, the Piper's bellflower grows in cracks and crevices of high elevation rock outcrops.