East Fork Quinault River alters course, threatens historic chalet

Staff reportJanuary 26, 2014 

This aerial photo, taken Jan. 15, shows how the East Fork Quinault River is threatening the historic Enchanted Valley chalet in Olympic National Park.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK

The East Fork Quinault River has shifted its channel and is now threatening the historic Enchanted Valley Chalet in Olympic National Park. Recent ground and aerial photographs of Enchanted Valley show the main channel of the river is flowing within several feet of the historic chalet.

Movement of the East Fork Quinault’s channel is common particularly in the wide, flat expanse of Enchanted Valley. Storms, fallen trees, rockslides and erosion all can cause the river to shift and carve a new channel, according to a park news release.

The river threatened the chalet back in 2005, coming within 10 feet of the historic structure.

“We are very concerned about the future of the chalet, as well as possible impacts to the river,” superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in the release. “The chalet has a great deal of local and regional significance and is well-known to anyone who’s traveled to Enchanted Valley in the past 75 years.”

Park staff is working now to fully assess the situation and determine the best course of action. However Creachbaum said the options for what can be done are limited, given Enchanted Valley’s remote location within the Olympic wilderness and the river’s dynamic force.

A routine monitoring program of biweekly photography flights will provide park cultural and natural resource staff members current information about the upper East Fork Quinault and the chalet. These experts also are working closely with the Pacific West Regional Office of the National Park Service, the Washington State Historic Preservation Officer, and other partners and concerned citizens.

Located 13 miles up the trail from the Graves Creek trailhead in the Quinault Valley, the chalet was built by Quinault Valley residents in the early 1930s, prior to establishment of the park. It served as a lodge for hikers and horse riders in Enchanted Valley.

Now used as a backcountry ranger station and emergency shelter for hikers, the chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

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