Elwha, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III(IV) (for normal flows)|
|ELWHA RIVER AT MCDONALD BR NEAR PORT ANGELES, WA|
|usgs-12045500||500 - 2000 cfs||II-III(IV)||01h09m||728 cfs (running)|
SEASON: Best after a good winter rain and during snowmelt (November to June), but can be boated throughout most of the year.
FUN FACT: Good training run for most of the year
PUT-IN: At mile 239.5 on Highway 101 take Olympic Hotsprings Road south through the National Park entrance, across the Elwha and up towards the former site of Glines Canyon Dam. Once you cross the bridge at Altair, continue 1.0 mile up the road where a driveway leads down to the old powerhouse site. You can drive down the road to a small parking area and river access. Note however that one of the most challenging drops on the run (class IV) is between this access and the bridge at Altair. To avoid this put in at the bridge at Altair on river right. In the past access was avaialble at the Altair Campground but this access was damaged by flood events and has not been open.
TAKEOUT: A take-out at the Highway 101 Bridge on river right is an option although the bank is steep and the channel actively migrates across the floodplain. There are several good takeouts along Olympic Hotsprings Road within the National Park. Any of the roadside pullouts are a possibility depending on how long you want to make the run. Outside the park, there is private property along the river that should be respected. The last good takeout is near the gauge which is mile 1.1 on Olympic Hotsprings Road. There is an old road bed here with decent river access.
This run covers the whitewater from Glines Canyon to the Highway 101 bridge that was historically the segment between the two dams. If you use the upper put-in at the historic powerhouse site, the run starts with the last half of Glines Canyon with some fun III- rapids before arriving at a sequence of boulders and ledges creating a fun class IV rapid about 0.5 miles from the put-in (the portage is fairly easy). You can see some of this section from the road (look for a set of wooden steps leading down to the river about 250 yards up the road from the bridge--the rapid is just upstream of this). Shortly after this rapid you cross under the bridge at Altair and the campground that serves as the alternate put-in.
From Altair, the river opens up into a broader valley with plenty of class II whitewater and a couple of III- rapids. You can get a good view of the character of this run on the shuttle run.
for additional information see:
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-12.8||Glines Canyon ledge drop||IV|
|-8.4||Alternate Kayaker Access||N/A|
Ledge drop towards the end of Glines Canyon below the old powerhouse site that continues to change with dam removal and the increased sediment supply coming down the river.
A river access has been available at the downstream end of Altair Campground on river left but has eroded over time. When the campground is closed, the alternate access is to hike down on the river right side of the bridge at Altair. This access avoids the rapids in Glines Canyon.
The channel at Fisherman's Bend has been dynamic since dam removal. The boulders in this reach of the river made this one of the more challenging drops on the run but the main channel has shifted more to the left in recent years away from the boulders.
An alternate access is sometimes used by kayakers just downstream of the National Park boundary near the gage station on river right.
A comprehensive guide to 75 river runs on Washington's beautiful Olympic Peninsula.
This study report evaluates the eligibility and classification of the Elwha River for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Fact sheet on dam removals scheduled for the Pacific Northwest.
Visiting the Elwha (WA)
August 26, 2013
Year of the River Film Released on Elwha and White Salmon (WA)
February 15, 2012
Year of the River: Episode 3, Elwha River (WA)
January 19, 2012
Elwha Dam Overlook Trail Now Open
October 10, 2011
Elwha Dam (WA) Removal Starts This Weekend
September 13, 2011
Countdown to Elwha Dam Removal Underway (WA)
December 15, 2010
Elwha River Dams Another Step Forward Toward Removal
February 21, 2007
Seeking Input - Elwha River Bridge Design (WA)
March 1, 2018