The National Park Service has contracted Sealaska Constructors LLC to remove a several large boulders in the Elwha River channel just downstream of Glines Canyon. Workers have detonated three controlled blasts to date, with at least one additional explosion still to come. This contract is included in the $325 million Elwha River Restoration project cost.
Based on comparisons of historic and recent photos, and historic and recent water levels, geologists have determined that a large rockfall occurred sometime after the Glines Canyon Dam was completed in 1927 and before dam removal began in 2011. A significant portion of the canyon’s east wall broke off, sending large boulders into the river channel, slowing and changing the river’s flow through the area. As a result, since the completion of dam removal, sediment moving downstream from the former Lake Mills reservoir has accumulated above the rockfall, creating a barrier to upstream fish passage.
Chinook salmon, steelhead and bulltrout are known to have migrated above the Glines Canyon site, with some reaching as far upstream as Geyser Valley. Removal of the obstructing boulders will further restore the river channel through Glines Canyon, aiding the overall fish and ecosystem restoration of the Elwha River.
To accommodate the blasting schedule and provide for public safety, the Olympic Hot Springs Road will be closed at the Altair Campground until October 16, after blasting has been completed.
The Whiskey Bend Road remains closed to motor vehicles, but is open to pedestrians, bicyclists and stock use. The Canyon Viewpoint at Glines Canyon can be reached via a one-mile walk from the parking lot at the base of Whiskey Bend Road. Repairs to the Whiskey Bend Road will begin in mid October;the road is anticipated to open in November.