Elwha River Restoration
Elwha River Restoration is a National Park Service project that includes the largest dam removal in history, restoration of the Elwha River watershed, its native anadromous fish, and the natural downstream transport of sediment and woody debris.
The removal of Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River began in mid-September 2011. Today, both dams are gone, the Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell reservoirs have drained, Elwha River flows freely from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, sediment once trapped behind the dams is rebuilding critical river and nearshore habitats, vegetation is being restored in the once barren landscapes of the drained reservoirs, and anadromous salmon and trout are naturally migrating past the former dam sites for the first time in over 100 years.
Elwha Closure Map
The Elwha River and its tributaries within Olympic National Park are closed to all fishing. Boating is prohibited from Upper Lake Mills Trail to Altair Campground.
Elwha in the News
Photos of dam, eagle, Elwha River by John Gussman. Photos of salmon, elk, tree planting NPS photos.
As the glaciers in the Northwest receded 10,000 years ago, they unveiled 13 rivers on the Olympic Peninsula. Ecosystems evolved during this process and all manner of species began to inhabit the rivers and valleys. Salmon, being a tenacious and opportunistic species, soon found their way into these newborn habitats. The Elwha River proved to be the most ideal for salmon and soon all five salmon species made it their home. For millennia the salmon thrived in the river and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe which resided on Elwhas river banks came to depended on them. In the late 1800s a growing nation looked to the Northwest to supply the required lumber to build new cities. This brought rapid change to the Olympic Peninsula and especially to the Elwha River and the people of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe.
Freeing a River
The Value of a River
NPS Photo/C. Bubar
It's not just about the Salmon
Where the Mountains feed the Sea.
NPS Photo/J. Burger
Giving Mother Nature a Hand
John Gussman photo
A River Gone Wild
Meet the Olympic National Park partners that helped free the Elwha River.