Elwha River

The Elwha River is one of many rivers with its source in the Olympic Mountains of western Washington. Until two dams were built on the Elwha in the early 1900’s it was distinguished by legendary salmon runs. The Elwha dam was completed in 1913 and eight miles upstream the Glines Canyon dam became functional in 1927. The dams provided no fish ladders so the migrations ended.

Decades of effort by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, many other organizations and individuals, finally resulted in the removal of the two illegally built dams. The process was complete in 2014, and an extensive revegetation project and natural reseeding has created riparian areas where Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell had been. Salmon are returning to the upper reaches of the river. Removal of the dams resulted in the release of millions of cubic yards of sand and silt held behind the dams to the nearshore waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Those releases created a new delta landform that has transformed the river mouth.

Above: Lake Mills from Glines Canyon Dam, 1999