Work to begin restoring the Elwha River in Olympic National Park is gearing up. Beginning August 1, public access into the Elwha Valley's Olympic Hot Springs Road will close just south of the Altair Campground.
Park officials say a gate has been installed and will be locked on August 1 to allow
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation employees to begin the six-week process of decommissioning the Glines Canyon Dam. Following decommissioning, Barnard Construction, Inc. will assume control of the Glines Canyon area and prepare the site for dam removal work to begin this September.
The closure of Olympic Hot Springs Road south of Altair campground will last for the duration of dam removal.
“This partial closure is necessary to maintain public safety during the dam removal phase of Elwha River Restoration project and allow the contractor to perform their role safely and efficiently,” Olympic Superintendent Karen Gustin said. "We encourage people to come see Glines Canyon Dam, Lake Mills and surrounding areas before August 1, and ask for the public's patience and understanding after this section of road closes."
Access to other areas in the Elwha Valley, including Madison Falls, Elwha and Altair campgrounds, Elwha Ranger Station, and Whiskey Bend Road and trailhead will not affected by this road closure. The Whiskey Bend Road is currently open to pedestrian, stock and bicycle use only, and is scheduled to re-open to motor vehicles this fall, after road repairs are completed.
Effective August 1, the Glines Canyon Dam, Lake Mills, Olympic Hot Springs, and the Boulder Creek trail and campground will no longer be accessible via Olympic Hot Springs Road.
Olympic Hot Springs will be inaccessible from the Elwha Valley. Hikers interested in visiting the Olympic Hot Springs during the three-year dam removal project may reach the springs by hiking 14 miles from the Sol Duc Valley via Appleton Pass.
For up-to-date information on the status of park roads, please visit Olympic National Park’s Current Conditions website at nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/current-conditions.htm.
On September 17, Barnard begins the three-year, $26.9 million removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, the largest project of its kind in U.S. history. The start of dam removal will also set into motion one of the largest restoration projects in the 95-year history of the National Park Service.
The 45-mile long Elwha River is the historic home of all five species of Pacific salmon and has been legendary as one of the Northwest’s most productive salmon streams. Because neither dam provided passage for migratory fish, salmon and other fish have been restricted to the lower five miles of river since dam construction. Removing the two dams will allow fish to access spawning habitat in more than 70 miles of river and tributary stream, most of which is protected inside Olympic National Park.