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Contact: Barb Maynes, 360-565-3005
Contact: Dave Reynolds, 360-565-2985
With less than six months left in the countdown to dam removal on the Elwha River, Olympic National Park staff is working to repair roads in advance of construction-related traffic and to provide as much access for park visitors as is safely possible.
A summary of road and access information is provided below.
Whiskey Bend Road
A recent assessment of slide damage to the Whiskey Bend Road by staff from Olympic National Park and the Federal Highways Administration has revealed extensive damage to the 4.5-mile long gravel road. Park staff now estimate that the road will remain closed to motor vehicles at least through the end of September 2011. The road will remain open at this time for pedestrian, bicycle and stock travel.
The Whiskey Bend Road has been closed to all public vehicle traffic since December 12, 2010 when a slide undermined the road following heavy rains.
"We understand the popularity of this road as a trailhead access and as a viewpoint for the Glines Canyon Dam, but damage to the road has made it unsafe for vehicle travel," said Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin. "The road will remain open for pedestrians, bicycles and stock users until construction begins this summer."
The most severe damage is located near Milepost 1 of the road where in addition to the slide, extensive damage has been found just under the road's surface.
The log cribbing that supports the road and road shoulder has deteriorated over time and is severely compromised. The soils that supported the cribbing have eroded, leaving behind a large empty void beneath the road. This empty space extends approximately 10 feet wide, three feet high and extends at least six feet back under the road.
Though the road is 14 feet wide, the road surface considered safe for driving is now less than six feet wide.
"What makes this stretch of road even more hazardous is that the downhill side is a near-vertical slope that drops 500 feet down to the Elwha River," explained Gustin.
The use of log cribbing as a road support is not a modern technique and is estimated to be at least 30 years old. The gravel-surfaced Whiskey Bend Road was originally constructed in the 1930s prior to the park's establishment.
Geotechnical drilling and topographical surveys have been completed, and design alternatives for the road repair are now being developed. The Denver Service Center (DSC) of the National Park Service has assumed planning and compliance responsibilities for the repairs. Additional information about the road repairs and construction schedule will be released as soon as they are available.
The 4.5-mile Whiskey Bend Road remains open to pedestrians, bicyclists and stock users, who should be especially careful in the slide areas. The damaged areas are well-marked and hikers, cyclists and stock users are urged to walk, rather than ride, on the inside road shoulder in the vicinity of the slides. Hikers traveling north from the Quinault Valley may still exit via the Whiskey Bend trailhead and road.
Olympic Hot Springs Road
Road repairs are also planned for the 'Fisherman's Corner' area of the Olympic Hot Springs Road, approximately one mile south of the Madison Falls trailhead. Short-term road closures may be necessary during these repairs, but timing details are not yet available. More information will be released as soon as possible.
Other than possible closures associated with repairs at Fisherman's Corner, the Olympic Hot Springs Road is open and will remain open for travel through July 31, 2011.
Beginning August 1, the Olympic Hot Springs Road will close to all public entry just above the Altair Campground to allow the dam removal contractor to prepare for the beginning of dam removal on September 17. The road will remain closed at that location for the duration of dam removal, estimated to last up to three years.
The Elwha entrance station is being relocated to allow construction traffic to bypass the entrance station. Construction of the new entrance station access lane and location is underway this week; the area is flagged and short delays are possible through the end of this week. The entrance station will be at its new location by mid-May.
Elwha Valley Campgrounds
The Altair campground will be open this summer from May 24 through September 6, 2011. The Elwha campground will remain open year round, according to its regular schedule.
Elwha Valley Trails
The trail between Humes Ranch and the Dodger Point bridge has extensive damage and is impassible at this time. More information and trail condition reports, as available, are posted at the park's website, nps.gov/olym.
Beginning August 1, when the Olympic Hot Springs Road closes, there will be no access to the Appleton Pass trailhead or Olympic Hot Springs from the Elwha Valley. Olympic Hot Springs may still be reached via a 14-mile hike from the Sol Duc Valley.
For more information about visiting Olympic National Park, people should visit the park's website at nps.gov/olym. Detailed information about hiking and backpacking in the park, including options for exploration beyond the Elwha Valley is also available at the park's website and by calling the Wilderness Information Center at 360-565-3100.
More information about Elwha River Restoration can be found at nps.gov/olym or on Facebook at 'Elwha River Restoration.'