Less than five months after the removal of the Elwha Dam, adult Chinook (king) salmon were observed in Olympic National Park. These are the first observed Elwha River salmon to naturally migrate into the park. When the Elwha Dam became operational in 1913, twenty-five years before the establishment of the park, over 70 miles of habitat were blocked to fish passage.
The Chinook were observed approximately two miles upstream from the boundary of the park by Phil Kennedy, Lead Fisheries Technician for the park, “We knew this was going to happen and as I saw the fish roll, my heart jumped!”
The Fisheries Crew has been conducting weekly surveys along the Elwha River since the start of August in search of Elwha River Chinook salmon in the park.
The return of the salmon marks an important milestone in the restoration of the Elwha River ecosystem and a historic moment in the history of the park.
“This has been an extremely exciting summer,” said Acting Superintendent Todd Suess. “First we see a renewal of a culture with the uncovering of the creation site of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and now we see the renewal of the legendary Chinook in Olympic National Park.”
This milestone will be one of the many achievements shared during the Elwha River Science Symposium this week, when scientists will come together to discuss what has been learned during the first year of the Elwha River Restoration project.
“Observation of these Chinook in Olympic National Park is a wonderful addition to the naturally returning steelhead recently observed by NOAA Fisheries and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe downstream of the park boundary,” said Olympic National Park Fisheries Biologist, Sam Brenkman. “We can now say that restoration of anadromous salmon in Olympic National Park is underway.”