Public Access To Lake Aldwell Near Olympic National Park Closed Due To Dam Removal

Tearing down dams is no easy job, and to do it safely requires some public access closures from time to time. One of those times has arrived at Olympic National Park, where they've closed the Lake Aldwell area to the public while work continues on taking down the Elwha Dam.

The closure, instituted Friday, is intended to protect the public from hazardous conditions caused by the draining of Lake Aldwell and removal of the Elwha Dam and associated structures. The log boom that prevents boats from drifting over the dam has been removed; without the boom, there is no barrier between the remaining reservoir and the swiftly moving river as it flows over and down the new diversion channel. These factors make the area around the dam extremely unsafe for boating and other forms of recreation, park officials say.

Anglers and other downstream river users are urged to use caution around the river in the coming days and to be on the lookout for logs moving downstream.

According to park officials, the historic slack waters of Lake Aldwell are changing to a delta environment with swift water conditions. River channels with steep banks are changing rapidly, are unpredictable, and hazardous to visitors. Access around the remaining reservoir is therefore closed to vehicles, bicycles, foot traffic, and boating.

However, boaters and rafters coming down the Elwha River may enter the extreme upper reaches of the reservoir to take out. But camping, extended stays, or loitering in the area is prohibited.

In a related development, a power outage is scheduled for the Elwha Valley area of Olympic National Park on Wednesday, October 26 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This temporary outage will allow workers to safely dismantle old transmission lines and poles associated with the Elwha River dams.

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There's also an ongoing closure of Olympic's Whiskey Bend Road to all use. This effectively prevents access to the Elwha backcountry, except via trail passes from other parts of the park: http://www.nps.gov/olym/parknews/whiskey-bend-road-to-close-oct-20.htm