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.

Comments

I have no doubt that the chalet will be saved from the wilderness.
"Historic structures are an intrinsic part of Olympic Wilderness." - Dr. Paul Gleeson, NPS Chief Archaeologist (retired). "the designation of any area of any park, monument, or other unit of the national park system as a wilderness area pursuant to this Act shall in no manner lower the standards evolved for the use and preservation" in accordance with historic preservation laws. - The 1964 Wilderness Act, section 4(a)(3). "Designation of the park as wilderness by this act should not, in and of itself, be utilized as justification for removal of any of these structures from the park... Repairs and stabilization may be warranted to ensure the preservation of their historic integrity." - Senator Dan Evans, sponsor of the 1988 Washington Parks Wilderness Act in Senate Committee testimony. "The only way to ensure the Chalet's safety, in the short term and with any degree of certainty, is to relocate it immediately." - Paul Kennard, NPS regional hydrologist, 2005. Enchanted Valley Chalet is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for both its historic and architectural significance. In the 1930s, it hosted hundreds of early visitors whose articles and photographs convinced America that Olympic was worthy of national park status. http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8010053 In past decades, Olympic Wilderness has suffered poaching of its elk, of its threatened runs of salmon, of the trees in its ancient rainforests, the deliberate arson of dozens of its historic structures... Today, the greatest threat remaining is posed by those who would "purify" Wilderness of its few surviving historic structures, to recreate an artificial Disneyland Wilderness bereft of its own origins. Most tragically, including some in the public service to whom we entrust their stewardship, but who view these assets as both budgetary and legal "liabilities".
I agree with you, RodF. "The purify" wilderness crowd comes up lacking in many cases by not appreciating the strength, character and contributions to culture that have come before. It's bad enough to sentence such places to historical record and museum science. The Kolb Studio at Grand Canyon comes to mind. For decades the effort to tear it down to make the Rim more "Pristine" went on. It was saved by Congressional action and is now a wonderful symbol of the Kolb Brother's "Life on the Edge" (and below). In the fifty's I pleaded with my father to take me with him and my older siblings into Enchanted Valley. He and the Olympians (Outdoor Club) had made many trips to the Chalet. I even hid in the trunk (I was only 5). Heard many stories of the trip but have yet to make it there. Going to make it happen at some point and would love to see the Chalet echoing the many awesome stories I've heard over the years.