Spawning fish already returning to reopened Elwha River habitat
Just months after the 108-foot tall Elwha Dam was removed, salmon and steelhead are already returning to the restored habitat.
Part of the restoration process includes releasing tagged fish into the river above the lower dam to jump-start the recolonization of the habitat that has been cut off from migratory salmon for almost 100 years. So far, fish biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released about 60 steelhead and 600 salmon into the river upstream of the former Elwha Dam. Some of these fish are already spawning, said a NOAA report.
In addition, wild and un-tagged fish have found their own way up the river, meaning they sense the river is open again. While monitoring the river, NOAA scientists spotted several untagged steelhead. One was about 35 inches long, bigger than any of the fish tagged and released.
Since the Elwha was taken down, the Glines Canyon Dam eight miles upriver also has been removed. The Elwha was once home to all five species of Pacific salmon.
In the meantime, park rangers are leading interpretive walks along the Elwha River where Lake Aldwell once existed. The programs are offered Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. through Sept. 2.
Rangers will guide visitors through the new landscape being created by the river following the removal of the Elwha Dam. Walks will provide an up-close look at shifting sediments, old and new vegetation, giant stumps logged a century ago, and the river reestablishing itself.
The walks are free and begin at the former boat launch at the end of Lake Aldwell Road, which turns north off U.S. Highway 101 just west of the Elwha River bridge. Visitors should wear sturdy walking shoes or boots and be prepared for windy conditions with no shade. The guided portion of the walk will last approximately one hour.
For more information about the walks, contact the Elwha Ranger Station at 360-452-9191.
A TOP 25 TRAIL
The Spruce Nature Trail at Olympic National Park has been named one of the “25 Unforgettable National Park Hikes” by the National Park Foundation.
The easy 1.2-mile loop trail wanders through the Hoh Rain Forest on the park’s west side. It leads from the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center directly into the temperate rain forest and along the Hoh River. Along the way one can see coniferous and deciduous trees, mosses and ferns, as well as salmon and elk.
You can find the complete list of hikes at nationalparks.org
SHELLFEST AT POTLACH
Potlatch State Park in Mason County will be the location for the inaugural ShellFest on Saturday. The festival will run from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at the park, on U.S. 101 about two miles south of Shelton
The event will feature activities for the family, including low-tide walks led by local experts, maritime music by Hank Cramer and Mary Garvey, touch tanks, ice tables, children’s activities, craft booths, videos, special presentation featuring American Indian culture presentation by the Skokomish Tribe and the storytelling by Delbert Miller of the Skokomish Tribe. Lunch will be provided by Washington’s shellfish growers.
Lunch is free with donations going to benefit the Washington State Parks Foundation. Admission to the event is free. The Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to the event.
Other sponsors are the Department of Ecology, the Department of Health, the Skokomish Tribe, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Pacific Shellfish Growers Association, Taylor Shellfish, Washington Sea Grant, Washington BEACH Program and Washington State University-Mason County Extension.
The event is part of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Washington Shellfish Initiative aimed at restoring and protecting shellfish beds in Puget Sound. Shellfish continue to be an important recreational, commercial and tribal resource, said a State Parks news release.
Potlatch State Park is a 57-acre camping park with 5,700 feet of saltwater shoreline on Hood Canal.
June 2012: 109,205
June 2011: 90,181
Difference: 21.1 percent
Year to date 2012: 244,489
Year to date 2011: 207,789
Difference: 17.7 percent
A rush of visitors along state Route 410 helped the park see another strong month of visitation. Counts at Cayuse Pass were 44.6 percent higher than in June 2011. At White River, the count was up 767.6 percent, from 890 in June 2011 to 7,718 last month. Despite the year-over-year improvement, June’s visitation total was well below the five-year average of just over 149,200 visits.
June 2012: 261,427
June 2011: 316,535
Difference: -17.4 percent
Year to date 2012: 878,451
Year to date 2011: 982,018
Difference: -10.5 percent
It was another difficult month, in terms of total recreation visits. June’s decline was driven in part by fewer visits to the Hoh (down 45.2 percent), Lake Crescent (-27.7 percent) and Hurricane (-26.1 percent) districts. The lone bright spot was a huge jump in visitation in the Elwha District, from 195 in June 2011 to 14,206 last month, a 7,185.3 percent increase.
Jeffrey P. Mayor, jeff.mayor@ thenewstribune.com