Our walk through the former Lake Aldwell last month ended in a grove of tree trunks that had been harvested for timber before the valley was flooded behind the Elwah Dam in 1912. The huge trunks were impressive; they’ve been tagged for further study. Other relics have been found in the former lake bed. We were shown the partial carcass of a truck and heard about a wooden wagon wheel that was found, stolen, and then recovered. But much of the area’s history is told in a landscape of tree trunks and huge tangles of downed trees lost for untold years at the bottom of the lake.
The river now flows freely. Time and currents are moving and depositing silt that built up behind the dams, altering the mouth of the Elwah River at the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As trees and shrubs return, wildlife is finding its way back. In addition to the fishery restoration I wrote about yesterday, returning birds are the most easily noted, but rangers have seen otters, bears, and elk as well. The changes can be subtle. As the fishery returns, minerals from seagoing fish carcasses are reintroduced to the region after over 100 years, adding new nutrients to the environment. It will be interesting to see how the ecosystem reestablishes in years to come.
In addition to the links I posted yesterday, you can click here for more information, including photos and videos of the final blasts of the Glines Dam.