Elwha River Washington Fishing, Camping, Rafting

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Elwha River

The site of the largest dam removal project in the U.S., the Elwha River is slowly being transformed into the river it once was, suitable for excellent salmon fishing and other forms of water recreation.

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  • Once the dam removal and reclamation project is complete, Elwha River Washington will be a body of water that will once again provide superior salmon and trout fishing, exciting whitewater rafting, and great hiking, all packaged within the confines of beautiful Olympic National Park.

What can I see and do at the Elwha River? 

Mostly contained within Olympic National Park, the 45-mile-long Elwha River supports several types of fish including pink, coho, chinook, sockeye, and chum salmon as well as steelhead, cutthroat, and bull trout, and Dolly Varden char.

The face of Elwha River fishing is changing as the National Park System attempts to restore the ecosystem of the river by removing two dams, allowing salmon blocked by the dams to travel downstream. The work should be completed by 2014 and fishing will be curtailed during that time because portions of the river at its tributaries will be closed during dam removal.

When the river is open, steelhead are planted in the winter for good trout fishing during December to February and summer steelhead plants allow for more fishing through the other parts of the year. The upper stretches of the river are great for fly fishing. Once the dams are down, the salmon fishing should be superior.

The Elwha River Trail begins at the Whiskey Bend trailhead, about 10 miles southwest of Port Angeles. This lowland forest, lowland river valley trail is moderate in difficulty and is well-maintained. There is an elevation of about 1,600 feet during the 28 mile hike.

Also check out shorter Elwha Valley trails that include Cascade Rock Trail (4 miles roundtrip), Krause Bottom Trail (4 miles), accessible Madison Falls Interpretive Trail (.2 miles), and Griff Creek Trail (5.6 miles).

May through September is the best time for you to take advantage of all Elwha Valley trails as snow can hamper travel during other times of the year. Several campsites are available. Note, however, that the trails (or portions of the trails) may be closed during dam removal. Contact the National Park Service for specific information.

When the Elwha River is fully functional, Olympic Raft and Kayak operates whitewater rafting tours for your enjoyment. This is a Class 2 river that provides excitement for rafters of a variety of levels, including beginners. Tours are conducted from April through September. Views are breathtaking!

Where is the Elwha River?

The only access to the Elwha River Valley is from Elwha River Road, which intersects with Highway 101 about 8.5 miles west of Port Angeles. This road provides access to the Elwha Ranger Station and several campgrounds.