PNW MTB Explorations & More: Celebrating the Elwha River ecosystem restoration, getting in the Coleville flow & sunset at the beach

I was on (and off) a mountain bike for this wondrous single-track traverse through low-land forest and low-land river ecosystems. I’m not a very technical rider so I had to get off for the roots and rocks. Would love to come back to hike it sometime. Can’t provide much guidance about the trail as there was a major washout that I had to navigate with some detours. While the Elwha River Trail (ERT) spans the entire Elwha Valley, I was only able to make it up to the Glines Canyon Overlook before sunset.

elwah river mtb trail

History

Back in the day, the Elwha River ran wild from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and its valley supported many plants and animal species. As far back as ~ 2700 years ago (per radiocarbon dating), the Klallam people lived off the land, largely relying on fishing in the Elwha River. But that all changed 1913, when the Elwha Dam was built in 1913 to address demand for the lumber. To add insult to injury, the Glines Canyon Dam was built upstream in 1927.

Despite a state law that required accommodating for fish passage, neither dam did and fish runs were blocked. The consequences were devastating—impacting thousands of salmon per year and irrevocably changing the Klallam way of life.

Finally in 1992, Congress passed a law that required the removal of both dams and restoration of the Elwah River watershed. At 210 feet The Glines Canyon Dam is the tallest dam removed to date. It took 15 tons of explosives and 12,000 cubic feet of concrete were removed, Within months of the removal of the 2 dams, salmon were spawning and trout were returning for the first time in 100 years!

The Elwha River is one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in National Park Service history.

Elwah River vertical

Glines Canyon Bridge
Glines Canyon Bridge

Feeding the Forest.jpg

scene from the trailhead
Meanwhile back at the trail head, it’s feeding time

 

 
Note: As of 12/4/2018 Elwha Road was closed to vehicles beyond Madison Falls parking lot due to washout.
Side trip: Madison Falls
This lovely 60-foot waterfall is wheelchair accessible via a .01 mile paved trail.

Madison Creek Falls Elwah River

Side trip: Colville MTB Trails
Sneaked in a quickie mountain bike right before dark at the Coleville bike park on the way back to Port Angeles. Currently under construction, the completed trails include a flowy, fun perimeter trail, a pump track, drop zone and several jump lines (whatever the last 3 are – nontechnical me, just enjoyed the 1st).
Coleville mtb

Side Trip: West Elwah Beach

West Elwha Beacj Sign

little wave elwah beachLogs and moon elwah beachsunset 3 elwah beach

So ends a gloriously full day that included a hike on Hurricane Ridge, 2 mountain bike rides, and a sunset stroll on the beach. Yes, I like to pack as much adventure and exploration into my days.

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