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Olympic National Park Officials Searching For Way To Save Enchanted Valley Chalet

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Olympic National Park officials are searching for ways to protect the Enchanted Valley Chalet. Since this photo was taken in mid-March, the stream has undercut the structure by about 8 feet./NPS

Olympic National Park officials, searching for a way to prevent the Enchanted Valley Chalet from tumbling into the East Fork of the Quinault River, are looking into the possibility of moving the historic structure away from the stream.

Within the coming weeks the park staff will release for public review "an expedited and concise environmental assessment" that will examine short-term approaches to protecting both the chalet and the Quinault River.  

This EA will analyze potential impacts of moving the Enchanted Valley Chalet a short distance away from the East Fork Quinault River. "Moving the chalet a short distance is designed to protect the river and instream natural resources from immediate harm and will provide additional time to develop a plan that will address the long-term future of the historic building," a park release Friday said.

“The National Park Service is charged with protecting all of Olympic National Park’s priceless resources, from historic structures like the chalet to bull trout, a federally listed threatened species that lives in the East Fork Quinault, to the unique and irreplaceable character of the Olympic Wilderness,” said Olympic Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.

“Taking a two-step approach to the evolving situation in Enchanted Valley allows us to address immediate resource protection needs while allowing more time to find a feasible solution that protects park resources into the future,” she added. 

The Enchanted Valley Chalet is located 13 miles from the nearest road, deep within the Olympic Wilderness. The chalet was constructed by Quinault Valley residents in the early 1930s, prior to establishment of Olympic National Park. The chalet served for several decades as a backcountry lodge and, more recently, as a wilderness ranger station and emergency shelter. The chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

Photos shared by park visitors in early January showed that the main channel of the East Fork Quinault River had migrated to within 18 inches of the chalet. This winter’s storms and high flows have resulted in the Quinault’s main channel continuing to shift by at least 15 feet in the past four months. Recent photographs show that the river has undercut the building by approximately four feet.

Migration of the East Fork Quinault’s channel is common 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. 

“We appreciate the technical insights, information, and photographs shared by private citizens, along with the many offers of assistance we have received from interested groups and individuals,” said Superintendent Creachbaum.

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