What can be done to save the Historic Enchanted Valley Chalet in the Olympic National Park?

The Enchanted Valley Chalet in the Olympic National Park is reaching a tipping point, 13 miles above the Graves Creek trail head in the Quinault Valley, the historic chalet is loosing ground to the the East Fork of the Quinault River.

Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said they are reviewing what can be done, however “One thing that’s off the table right now would be going in and inserting [inaudible] into the bank. The bank is a 12 foot vertical and it is inside the wilderness boundary, and we are directed by law to let natural processes run so that’s a little bit tricky.”

The National Parks Department said the river has shifted toward the home by at least 15 feet in the past three months, and as of late last week was undercutting the chalet by about four feet.

The National Park Service said earlier this month that as it has for many years, the main channel of the East Fork Quinault River has continued to move across the Enchanted Valley floodplain this winter, further eroding the river bank and undermining the 1930s-era Enchanted Valley Chalet.

This winter’s storms and high flows have resulted in the Quinault’s main channel shifting by at least 15 feel in the past three months.  As of late last week, the river had undercut the chalet by approximately four 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 National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum.  “Our options are limited, however, given the size and force of the river and the valley’s remote location within the Olympic Wilderness.”

An Olympic National Park crew recently returned from Enchanted VAlley, where they assessed and documented the Chalet’s condition and removed equipment, supplies and hazardous materials.  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.

Park staff continues to work closely with partners to develop the best course of action, both in the long and short term.  Key partners include the Washington State Historic Preservation Officer, Pacific West Regional Office of the National Park Service and concerned organizations and citizens.

“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 Creachbaum.  “We invite anyone who’d like to share photos or memories of the Chalet to post them on our Olympic National Park Facebook page.”

The park’s Facebook page is found at https://www.facebook.com/OlympicNPS.  The page, including a new album of Enchanted Valley photos, is visible to anyone with internet access.  People must have a Facebook profile in order to post their own photos and memories, however.

In early January, photographs and visitor reports revealed that the Quinault River had migrated to within 18 inches of the building.  Subsequent aerial photos illustrated the river’s continued movement toward the chalet.

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.

Located 13 miles up trail from the Graves Creek trailhead in Quinault Valley, the chalet was build by Quinault Valley residents in the early 1930s, prior to establishment of Olympic Natiaonal Park.  It served as a lodge for hikers and horse riders until the early 1940s.

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.