Elwha dam removal focus of new Burke exhibit

Staff reportNovember 17, 2013 

The multi-year effort to remove two dams on the Elwha River, including the Elwha Dam above, is the subject of a new exhibit at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Cultural.


“Elwha: A River Reborn,” an exhibit on the rebirth of the Elwha River, will open Saturday at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle.

For more than a year, crews have been working to remove the Elwha and Glines Canyon (also known as the Upper Elwha) dams that blocked the rivers for a century.

The dams were built to provide hydroelectric power to Port Angeles as it began to prosper. While the dams brought jobs and resources to the developing community, they were built violating state laws. There were no fish ladders or way for the salmon to pass through, cutting off access to more than 70 miles of river habitat.

In September 2011, work on the largest dam removal project in the nation’s history began. Since then, the Elwha Dam has been removed and the majority of the Glines Canyon Dam has been taken down. Already salmon and steelhead have been found in the river above the Elwha Dam.

The museum exhibit is based on the book of the same name by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman.

The museum uses photographs and stories from the book, as well as artifacts, cultural objects and stories from the Klallam people to detail the decades-long fight to remove the dams, and detail the environmental renewal happening right now.

Visitors will be able to watch a time-lapse video of the dams coming down, and follow the researchers as they document the dramatic changes taking place every day. Also included are fish, plants and other specimens from the Burke collection that were collected both before and after the dams were built.

At “Camp Elwha,” an interactive campsite in the exhibit, visitors can try hands-on activities and explore what it’s like for the field researchers who are monitoring the changes to the Elwha River valley.

If you go

When: The exhibit runs through March 9. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, and until 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month.

Where: Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. The museum is on the University of Washington campus, at the corner of Northeast 45th Street and 17th Avenue Northeast.

Admission: $10 general, $8 senior, $7.50 student/youth. Admission is free to children 4 and younger, Burke members, UW students, faculty and staff. Admission is free to the public on the first Thursday of each month.

Information: 206-543-5590 or burkemuseum.org.

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