Here are some of the takeaways from EarthFix reporters Katie Campbell and Ashley Ahearn after their visit to the Elwha River within Olympic National Park.
Don’t expect to see the dams in their final days. Olympic Hot Springs Road which leads to the Upper Elwha Dam, also known as the Glines Canyon Dam, is closed at a point just beyond Altair campground. The Lower Dam Road, which leads from U.S. Highway 112 to the Elwha Dam, is also closed. These roads will remain closed throughout dam removal, which is expected to last up to three years.
Stay tuned. The Olympic National Park is pursuing ways for visitors view dam removal as it happens. They’re building an overlook trail off of Lower Dam Road and are placing webcams at each dam site. Cost to visit the park is $15 per vehicle and the pass is good for a week.
Don’t worry, there’s ample opportunity to see the river. The Elwha can be seen in all its glory from the Olympic Hot Springs Road, which has a number of pullouts and overlooks.
We highly recommend camping. The Elwha and Altair campgrounds are open. The Elwha campground will remain open year-round, but Altair will close September 6. These are great spots to camp and you can listen to the Elwha rushing by all night long. The fee is $12. No reservations are taken, so get there early to get a good campsite. And bring cash, you can’t pay for camping here with a credit card. Here’s a link to the campgrounds in Olympic National Park. And if you’re not up for sleeping on the ground, here are other lodging options.
Take a hike. We heard big raves about the hike to Hurricane Hill, which is 1.6 miles one way and begins at the end of the Hurricane Ridge Road, a 45-minute drive from Port Angeles. The trail climbs 700 feet and yield spectacular panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains and Strait of Juan de Fuca. Park Service has posted a pdf of a list of day hikes online.
If you feel like celebrating the dams’ removal, Olympic National Park staff and several community, civic, and non-profit groups have formed Celebrate Elwha. It has lined up a variety of events from Sept. 15-18 in Port Angeles. They include a two-day science symposium, educational activities scheduled at locations throughout the watershed, as well as various music acts and art. The public radio show eTown plans to record a program at the local high school during the celebration.
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