Less than five months after the removal of the Elwha Dam, adult Chinook salmon were observed in Olympic National Park. These are the first observed Elwha River salmon, to naturally migrate into the park, since the dam was constructed in 1913. When the Elwha Dam became operational, twenty-five years before the establishment of the park, over 70 miles of habitat were blocked to spawning fish.
The Fisheries Crew has been conducting weekly surveys along the river since the beginning of August, in search of Chinook salmon within the park boundaries. The Chinook were observed approximately two miles upstream from the boundary of the park, by Phil Kennedy, Lead Fisheries Technician for the park. “We knew this was going to happen and as I saw the fish roll, my heart jumped!”
The return of the salmon marks an important milestone in the restoration of the Elwha River ecosystem and a historic moment for the park. This milestone will be one of the many achievements shared, during the Elwha River Science Symposium this week, when scientists will come together to discuss what has been learned during the first year of the Elwha River Restoration project.
“Observation of these Chinook in Olympic National Park is a wonderful addition to the naturally returning steelhead recently observed by NOAA Fisheries and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe downstream of the park boundary,” said Olympic National Park Fisheries Biologist, Sam Brenkman. “We can now say that restoration of anadromous salmon in Olympic National Park is underway.”
Another, “hell yeah!”