Wednesday April 6, 2022

The Progressive Magazine

The Elwha River flows through an old dam site. In the background, young alder trees bloom in what was once a reservoir, and the green mound in the foreground indicates the location of the old dam walls.

Walking down the hill from a parking lot on the outskirts of Port Angeles, Washington, the sound of rushing water gets louder. The powerful turquoise waters of the Elwha River flow through a deep crevasse in the rock and toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On the far side of the gully, a large grass-covered mound sits where the 105-foot Elwha Dam once stood. A handful of giant wooden stakes protruding from the granite below remain the only remnants of the dam.  

Rob Elofson, an elder from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, points beyond the mound where young alder trees stand out against the mature Douglas firs behind them, pale white branches against a deep green canvas. He says the whole area of alder forest used to be underwater—a vast reservoir behind the dam. 

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