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:
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.
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There is a log down in the lower part of Fisherman's bend. It blocks the center and right portion of the right channel. There is a clear route to the left of the log, but the difficulty of the run is increased because the main flow of the river goes directly into the log's root ball. It is visible from the road on the way to the put in.
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.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Elwha River Bridge
Elwha River High Water
Take-out on Aldwell Reservoir
Highway 101 Bridge
Pete at Fisherman's Bend
Rapid on the Elwha
Launching from Altair
Historic Highway 101 Bridge
New Highway 101 Bridge Alignment
Elwha Resort Access
Glines Powerhouse Access Sign
Glines Powerhouse Access
Elwha River at Altaire
Glines Canyon removal
Glines Canyon rapid
Glines Canyon Dam
Glines Canyon Dam Spill Gates
Glines Canyon Powerhouse
elwha above altaire
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Design for the US 101 Elwha River Bridge replacement project is proceeding forward and the Washington Department of Transportation is soliciting community feedback. Please provide a comment on this project if you use the Elwha River for recreation.
While paddling the Elwha River is a fascinating way to experience restoration and recovery of a free-flowing river in action, it's not the only way to get a first-hand look at one of the nation's most ambitious and fascinating restoration projects.
Today we wrap up our Year of the River film series with a short film that tells the story of historic dam removal successes on Washington's Elwha and White Salmon rivers. The film features advocates who were instrumental in taking down the dams, and people connected to the rivers who will benefit from dam removal.
Currently underway, the Elwha River restoration project is the biggest dam removal effort in history. This week we are proud to release the third film in our series on dam removal celebrating the Year of the River.
As the winter rains return to the Pacific Northwest, those passing through Washington's Olympic Peninsula in search of paddling opportunities will have an opportunity to see the largest dam removal effort in the nation underway. Olympic National Park recently opened the Elwha Dam Overlook Trail where visitors can view dam removal progress in person.
The biggest dam removal in history begins September 17, 2011 on Washington’s Elwha River. In partnership with American Rivers and the Hydropower Reform Coalition, American Whitewater is releasing Episode 1 of our Year of the River film series.
The final countdown for the Elwha River restoration project has begun, and the largest dam removal in U.S. history is set to begin in September 2011. Removing the dams will free the Elwha River for the benefit of salmon, river-based recreation, and the cultural resources of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
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