OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Exploring the Elwha River valley got a whole lot easier Thursday with the reopening of Olympic Hot Springs Road.
Olympic National Park officials reopened the road to vehicles as far as the Glines Canyon overlook, which provides visitors a view of the site of the former 210-foot-tall Glines Canyon dam.
The road had been closed near the Madison Falls trailhead since November 2015, when storms washed out a section and damaged or destroyed nearby infrastructure.
“We are very pleased to welcome visitors back into the Elwha Valley,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a park statement.
“Restoring vehicle access has been a long and arduous process for our staff, and I am proud of the work they have accomplished.”
Olympic Hot Springs Road and Whiskey Bend Road above Glines Canyon remain closed because of snow and ice, park officials said.
A series of storms 14 months ago flooded the river and re-established a side channel near the Elwha Campground, which is closed indefinitely because of flood damage.
Altair campground was destroyed — it will reopen as a day-use area — and other parts of Olympic Hot Springs Road were severely eroded, park officials said.
During the closure, visitors had to walk or bicycle about 7 miles from the gate to the Whiskey Bend trailhead and about 8 miles to the Boulder Creek trailhead at the end of Olympic Hot Springs Road.
Olympic National Park crews installed a one-lane temporary bridge over the 90-foot washout site last summer.
Park officials hoped to reopen Olympic Hot Springs Road last fall, but an October storm reactivated a side channel and caused minor flooding just upstream from the new bridge.
Park staff used the closure to monitor and evaluate the frequency and severity of floods.
Water might flow over the road in heavy rains or high river flows, park officials said.
During last week’s rain, water flowing over the road was 2 to 3 inches deep.
“We urge all park visitors to be informed and prepared before entering the more remote areas of Olympic National Park,” Creachbaum said.
“Especially during the winter months, people should check the current weather forecast before heading into the park.”
For information on road conditions in the park, phone the park’s information hotline at 360-565-3131.
For information on visiting Olympic National Park, click on www.nps.gov/olym.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].