Change in course for Quinault River threatens historic Enchanted Valley Chalet
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The Enchanted Valley Chalet in Olympic National Park is now dangerously close to the Quinault River after the waterway altered its course. — Olympic National Park

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A shifting Quinault River is threatening to undercut the historic Enchanted Valley Chalet situated deep within Olympic National Park.

Recent ground and aerial photographs show the east fork, or main stem, of the river has changed course and is now flowing within several feet of the chalet, park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said.

The edge of the river bank is about 18 inches from the base of the wooden structure.

Park officials will monitor the channel by taking aerial photographs of the remote Enchanted Valley every two weeks.

Moving the chalet away from the river’s edge won’t solve the problem, Maynes said, because the channel migrates from one side of the valley to the other.

“There is no bedrock in that valley that would be a safe zone,” Maynes said.

“There isn’t anywhere to move it that we’re aware of at this point.”

The chalet was built by valley residents in the early 1930s before Olympic National Park was established.

It has served as a lodge for hikers and horseback riders and is used as a backcountry ranger station and emergency shelter.

“We are very concerned about the future of the chalet, as well as possible impacts to the river,” park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a press release.

“The chalet has a great deal of local and regional significance and is well-known to anyone who’s traveled to Enchanted Valley in the past 75 years.”

Located 13 miles beyond the Graves Creek trailhead, the chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The Enchanted Valley is part of a designated wilderness.

“We really need to make sure that any actions we consider are within the Wilderness Act,” Maynes said.

The East Fork Quinault River has come within about 10 feet of the chalet in the past, but has never been as close to the structure as it is now, Maynes said.

Cultural and natural resource experts from the park are working with state historic preservation officials, concerned citizens and others to determine the best course of action, Maynes said.

“Our options are limited, however, given Enchanted Valley’s remote location within the Olympic Wilderness and the river’s dynamic force,” Creachbaum said.

Storms, fallen trees, rockslides and erosion can all cause the river to shift and carve a new channel, Maynes said.

The next aerial photography flight is scheduled for the middle of next week.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 20. 2014 6:27PM
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