Today — Take a ranger-guided exploration walk along Elwha River; see the dam-removal transformation yourself
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Andy Ritchie, Olympic National Park Elwha project hydrologist, stands near a large cedar stump in what was Lake Aldwell. Stumps were left behind from when loggers cleared the timber before the Elwha Dam was built in 1910.

By Peninsula Daily News staff

PORT ANGELES —

Take a guided walk on what was once under water behind the Elwha Dam.

Beginning today, Olympic National Park rangers will lead free two-hour walking tours along the Elwha River and through what was Lake Aldwell.

The walks are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesdays (today, Aug. 26 and Sept. 2) and on two Sundays (Aug. 24 and Aug. 31).

The lake drained away after the Elhwa Dam was removed in 2012, part of the park's $325 million effort to restore the Elwha River and its once legendary salmon runs. The last hunks of Glines Canyon Dam, the river's second century-old dam, are expected to be blasted out next month.

What you can expect to see on the Elwha River Walk, according to a park statement, is  “a fascinating, up-close look at shifting sediments, both old and new vegetation, giant stumps logged a century ago and the river re-establishing itself.”

“If you have not been to the Olympic National Park in the last two years, the changes to Elwha Valley are dramatic and very exciting,” said Rainey McKenna, ONP public information officer.

“Particularly as vegetation is restored and re-established, and salmon are returning to the river, we're seeing birds, otters, bears, elk and other animals that are returning to this once water-covered landscape.”

In addition to joining the interpretive walks, she says park visitors also can look at the narrow canyon where the Elwha Dam used to be. The former dam site is fully accessible on foot to the public.

How to get there

The free walks begin at a former boat launch, located at the end of Lake Aldwell Road.

To get there, take U.S. Highway 101 and drive about 8 miles west of Port Angeles.

Turn north — a sharp right — off Highway 101 onto Lake Aldwell Road immediately after the Elwha River Bridge.

Visitors should wear sturdy walking shoes or boots and be prepared for windy conditions with no shade.

Visitors are free to continue exploring the river and lakebed area after the tours.

The land is controlled by ONP but technically is not part of the national park.

It is open year-round and has become a favorite hiking area for many Port Angeles area residents.

Dogs on leashes are permitted. No park admission pass is needed.

For more information about the walks, phone the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles at 360-565-3130. The visitor center also has information about nearby Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent.

To learn more about the Elwha River restoration, the world's largest ever dam removal project, including links to the project webcams, weekly dam-removal blog and Elwha River restoration Facebook page, visit the Olympic National Park website: http://tinyurl.com/Elwha-Restoration.

Last modified: August 21. 2014 10:02PM
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