What will the Elwha dam removal mean for whitewater boating?


Guest blog post by Tom O’Keefe

Tom O’Keefe is the Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater.



I’m excited about the Elwha River restoration because it will offer new opportunities to enjoy the recreational opportunities of a restored river.

The Elwha River is unique among rivers of the Olympic Peninsula as it cuts through several different geologic strata.

This diverse geology results in a diversity of salmon habitat but it also creates a regionally unique whitewater resource with deep and inaccessible gorges and challenging whitewater representing one of the most spectacular backcountry paddling resources in the country.

The gorges that define this river run have been treasures, along with salmon habitat, and the cultural legacy of those who have called this river home for centuries. Considering the heritage this river represents, the experience of paddling the Elwha is much more than the challenge of executing the precise sequence of paddlestrokes required to pass safely down the river.

Experiencing the river from a kayak, one quickly understands why this river has been such a special place for those of us who enjoy the river today as well as those who have a deeper cultural connection to this place. It is about to get even better!