Salmon Seen Upstream from Former Dam Sites on Washington’s Elwha River

Release Date:
A woman crouches on dry river stones near the carcass of the skull and spine of a salmon.

USGS geologist Amy East was delighted to observe a Chinook salmon carcass upstream from two dams recently removed from the Elwha River in Washington State. River restoration has allowed salmon to reach upstream spawning grounds for the first time in more than a century. Photo credit: Joshua Logan, USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

For the first time in more than a century, salmon have reached stretches of the Elwha River upstream from two dams built in the early 1900s and recently removed. In August 2016, fisheries biologists observed live salmon there. In September 2016, USGS scientists doing topographic surveys found carcasses of Chinook salmon that died after migrating from the ocean to above the upper dam site, completing their natural life cycle. Although dam removal concluded in 2014, a boulder jam remained a fish barrier until fall 2015, when NPS dynamited the boulders. Now, fish are migrating into the upper watershed—a huge success for the Elwha River Restoration Project, recently honored as a finalist for the international Riverprize. Monitoring ecosystem recovery in the Elwha is a cooperative effort by Olympic National Park, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USGS, NOAA, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Contact: Amy East,

Learn more about USGS science supporting the Elwha River Restoration Project.

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 1
Date published: November 4, 2020
Status: Active

USGS science supporting the Elwha River Restoration Project


The Elwha River Restoration Project has reconnected the water, salmon, and sediment of a pristine river and coast of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Coordinated by the National Park Service, restoration of the Elwha River included the removal of two large dams that had blocked salmon and sediment passage for almost 100 years. The largest dam removal in U.S. history began in...

Filter Total Items: 1
Date published: September 13, 2016

International Recognition for Historic Elwha River Restoration

NEW DELHI, INDIA – The collaborative work of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to restore the Elwha River of Washington, USA was recognized as a world-renowned restoration project during the awarding of the 2016 Thiess International Riverprize.