Vanishing Elwha Reservoirs Reveal Long-Buried Sites

lower elwha klallam tribe and national park service logos

Subscribe RSS Icon | What is RSS
News Release Date: August 8, 2012

Contact: Frances Charles, Chairwoman, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, 360-452-8471 ext. 106

Contact: Barb Maynes, Olympic National Park, 360-565-3005

In one of the most significant developments yet in the process of Elwha River Restoration, members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe recently gathered at their people's sacred creation site for the first time in nearly a century.

"Our Ancestors didn't write down our stories in books as we do today. We had witnessed the old ways as we had seen them from the etched rocks exposed at TsiWhitZen village site," said Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Chairwoman Frances Charles."Standing on our spiritual sacred site, the emotions of our Ancestors were so overwhelming we sang songs of joy to actually see this place and feel the power of our Ancestors. Our sacred site is not a myth as some had been led to believe."

Generations of tribal members handed down descriptions of a distinctive place along the Elwha River where the Creator bathed the people and blessed them.For millennia a place of reverence and vision, the tribe's creation site was covered by the waters of one of the two reservoirs created after construction of the dams in 1910 and 1927.

Removal of the two dams on the Elwha River began in September 2011; the Elwha Dam is completely gone and Glines Canyon Dam is expected to be fully removed by early summer 2013.

The creation site was located in early July by members of the Olympic National Park cultural resources staff who frequently monitor both of the former Elwha reservoirs for emerging cultural resources.Park staff immediately contacted tribal members who visited the site and confirmed its authenticity.

"The tribe has lived along the Elwha River since time immemorial and it is an honor to be part of the rediscovery of this sacred site," said Olympic National Park Acting Superintendent Todd Suess. "As this project moves forward, we are gratified to see both their culture and the river's ecosystem renewed."

Elsewhere on the Elwha, another significant cultural site was recently found in an area formerly covered by a reservoir.Material from this site was collected for further study and the site was re-buried.Radiocarbon analysis indicates that the spot was used by people as far back as approximately 8,000 years ago, establishing it as one of the oldest known archeological sites on the Olympic Peninsula.

"Finding these resources underscores the value of cultural resources, not only for their importance to the tribe's culture, but also for the vast wealth of information they contain," said Suess."Because of the sensitivity of these sites, we will not be releasing more detailed location information."

Cultural sites and artifacts are protected by laws including the National Historic Preservation Act, the Archeological Resources Protection Act, as well as National Park Service and Department of the Interior policy.Disturbance of cultural sites and artifacts is strictly prohibited and is punishable by law.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

600 E. Park Avenue
Port Angeles , WA 98362


360 565-3130

Contact Us

Stay Connected