Dam Debris on the Elwha

September 2, 2016

By Carolyn Price

Photo at right: The turquoise waters of the Elwha River churn wildly through Goblin’s Gate along the Geyser Valley Trail. Photo by Douglas Scott


Four years ago when Morgan Colonel took over as the new owner of Olympic Raft and Kayak, he was filled with hopes and dreams of pursuing his water-sports passion on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park and sharing it with others.

His purchase of the company, located about 10 miles west of Port Angeles, also came with idyllic living quarters on seven wooded acres along Indian Creek which fed into the Elwha River.

Three short years later in 2015, Colonel’s dreams were dashed when he halted his whitewater guiding service in the Park after spotting massive rusted debris throughout the river left over from the Elwha River dam removal project.

The debris, revealed from the lower waters, included rusted and twisted metal rods, rebar, large chunks of pipe and tugboat-size towing chains. Several pieces are now scattered around Colonel’s backyard, hauled out of the Elwha himself.

For now, officials with Olympic National Park have installed warning signs for boaters along the river. And, when river flows are lower over the next two summers, it is expected the Army Corps of Engineers will begin removing the remaining dam foundation and debris.

Ever the optimist, Colonel says it’s only a matter of time until the Elwha is again healthy for fishing, riverside camping, boating and other forms of recreation. Until then, his kayaking trips and camps in nearby waters are filling up fast as water enthusiasts continue to flock to his company deep in the heart of Elwha country!