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Can Olympic National Park's Enchanted Valley Chalet Be Saved?

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Thie East Fork Quinault River steadily is undermining the historic Enchanted Valley Chalet. NPS photo taken March 12.

Olympic National Park officials seem resigned to seeing the historic Enchanted Valley Chalet toppled by time and the meandering main channel of the East Fork Quinault River.

For some months now park officials have watched as the river has swung towards the log-built chalet in the park's backcountry, 13 miles up from the Graves Creek trailhead in the Quinault Valley. On Thursday the park issued a release stating that the river was now undermining the 1930s-era chalet by about 4 feet.

“Within what is technically and economically feasible, we continue to do our very best to protect the area’s natural and cultural resources and its wilderness character,” said Olympic Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum in a release.  “Our options are limited, however, given the size and force of the river and the valley’s remote location within the Olympic Wilderness.”

While the release didn't say park officials have given up on saving the chalet, it did note that crews have removed equipment, supplies and hazardous materials from the building.  It also noted that, "The building’s windows were also removed to both prevent glass from impacting the river and downstream natural resources and to preserve elements of the historic building."

“We understand that the Chalet occupies an important place in the history of this area, and we know that people hold deep regard and affection for the building,”  said Superintendent Creachbaum.  “We invite anyone who’d like to share their photos or memories of the Chalet to post them on our Olympic National Park Facebook page.”

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Better days for the chalet. NPS photo.

Park officials say migration of the East Fork Quinault’s channel is common particularly in the loose, unconsolidated soils of Enchanted Valley.  Storms, fallen trees, rockslides and simply the constant process of erosion can all cause the river to shift and carve a new channel.

Enchanted Valley is within the Olympic Wilderness, designated in 1988 and is a popular wilderness destination.  More recently, the chalet has been used as a backcountry ranger station and emergency hikers’shelter.  The chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.


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