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

News from USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

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.

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