Friday November 10, 2023


The banks of the Elwha sprawl and meander now. Just up from the river mouth west of Port Angeles, there are braided channels that crisscross the river basin. Soft sediment is underfoot on the walk through the water in waders, crossing sandy islands that didn’t exist before dam removal.

“Yeah, I mean, the river is completely different than we remember it — than I remember it,” said Vanessa Castle, who grew up on this river with her extended family.

She’s an enrolled member of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. Her mom was a commercial fisherwoman, harvesting mostly coho salmon here. The dams loomed above them then, harnessing the river’s flow and preventing the Elwha’s legendary chinook salmon from reaching their spawning grounds above the dams.

Castle remembers, as a kid, seeing the huge endangered fish jump up and slam against the lower dam, trying in vain to get above it.

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