Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lakes, Falls, Dams, and a River Set Free - It's All About the Water

A river runs through it, again.
We left the ocean, but not the water. Although warmer and dryer than normal, the Olympic Peninsula holds many beautiful water sources within her vast forests.

For our return to Lake Crescent, we stayed at the Shadow Mountain RV Park about a mile east. A basic park with 40 terraced gravel sites, full hook-ups, a general store, gas station (diesel, yes) small playground, field for doggies, and a miniature golf course in the trees. It's also for sale and includes a park-model home and a couple golf carts. If we were younger and still needing to work......

Hwy 101 runs along the very edge of Lake Crescent, and is one of those Class-A-windshield drives that makes you appreciate just how much you can see. Of course you can also see the monster logging trucks coming at you on the narrow, twisting, narrow road. Not sure why they always look so much bigger and aggressive than other large trucks!

Several people recommended the Lake Crescent Lodge as a must-see. So we did. And they were right. There are no bad views of this lake, but the lodge certainly has one of the best.

Rooms, cabins, restaurant
Swimming beach
Kayaks and kites
Following the signs we found several walking paths and soon figured out that Nature Bridge was not something you walked over, but rather a place where you come to stay and learn about the ecosystems of Lake Crescent and the Olympic Forest. There are large and small cabins as well as outdoor and indoor classrooms. It looks like a great program.

Clouds blew in, the temperature dropped, and for a short period it was a different place.

A brief break in the sunshine
Made a quick stop by the old ranger station at Marymere Falls and drove around to the east side of the lake.  The water was very rough along this section, but apparently it was smoother underneath.

Marymere Falls Ranger Station (closed)

When it's rough on the surface
go below.
Another place we missed last time was the Log Cabin Resort. With a small RV park right on the water (FHUs), a free day-use parking lot, rentals (kayaks, SUPs, canoes, peddle boats, boards), lodge, cabins, small store, and restaurant it is a gem of a spot on this beautiful lake.

Happy campers share their views

A rare sighting - the Board Bottom Duck
Clouds clear while we enjoy our lunch with a view
We continued around the lake, into Crescent Bay, and out the other side.

The only access to the beach and trails at Crescent Bay is from the small RV park across the road from the beach. We didn't feel like spending money just to get out of the car to stretch our legs so we kept going. 

Onto Hwy 112 where we somehow missed Salt Creek Recreation Area's park which we hope to stay at next time we're in the area. Stopped at the Elwha Dam RV Park where we were unable to secure a spot this week, and where I first learned about the removal of the dam(s) and the restoration of the Elwha River. It's a nice spot, but no better than where we are so I wasn't disappointed.

Our final Wednesday stop was at the former Lake Aldwell, now returned to the river. From what I've learned of Mr Aldwell, I am delighted to see the lake is no more.

Site of now dry Lake Aldwell above the now removed Elwha Dam

Tons of silt trapped in the lake for 100 years caused the delta below to shrink
A fresh start
Thursday was a "town day" and Friday was a "home day" so we joined the weekenders this morning to see some more of the national park.

Madison Falls is on the edge of the park and therefore dogs are allowed on the trail. It is a short, paved, forested path that ends at a beautiful waterfall. Although it's not a large one, it is our first so it is very special.

You always remember your first

Love that sound!

This giant tree had the most magical spirit
The only other people there were a young couple who found a spot on the other side of a tree to watch the water and we never heard them. I love quiet people in nature :-)  On our drive back, the parking lot was full so our timing was great.

I knew about the falls, and that there was an "observation point" at the end of the road. I didn't realize there was a huge piece of the river restoration included on this route. It was a real treat for me to see the former site of Lake Mills and the remains of the Glines Dam.

Seeing the Elwha River free to flow all the way to the ocean was an emotional experience. There are no words that say what it is to see what was, what is - and to envision what will be.

Removal of Glines Dam emptied Lake Mills, opening the long-closed spawning home for what was once millions of salmon
Note the white post at the end on the left side

So fast!  Yes, I teleported
I had not seen anything about this public site and was blown away by the opportunity to learn even more about the project at the top of the destroyed dam! They will need a bigger parking lot as more people are made aware.

The Elwha River Restoration is a fascinating piece of current history, one that gives me such hope for the future of our planet.

Flowing free where a dam stood for decades
Entering the canyon from the former lake site

Restoring natural habitat destroyed in the demolition

In keeping with the theme, we also had a bit of rain this afternoon. Not enough, but still lovely to hear on the roof and smell in the air.


  1. I too loved learning that they had removed dams on a river...what a novel idea!

    We were surprised to learn that water is an issue on the Peninsula. If one buys a home in Sequim there are water restrictions in some areas due to keeping the Dungeness River at certain levels all year in order to maintain the proper amount of water for fish and other wildlife to thrive. I never associated the Olympic Peninsula with water problems before our visit.

    1. Interesting. I have seen restriction signs and the rivers are low. One woman said the dams came down at the worst time because they have no water storage. Of course the removal plan started in '92 :-) I suppose its the trade off for being in the banana belt, more sunshine so more water issues.

  2. Oh what memories! Thanks for letting me take a trip back with you. I love that area!

    1. Great to have you with us, glad you're enjoying the trip :-))))

  3. What a great time you are having! So very much to see and understand. Thanks for the tour since this area is all new to us. The removal of the dams and returning the river to its natural course has so many pros and cons. It is so wonderful to see the river meandering naturally but there were reasons for the dams. How tough to know what is correct! If we only had a crystal ball, especially since these decisions take so very long that things change. Thanks for sharing what is going on:)

    1. Oh yes to be able to see the impact of our choices far into the future :-) Like football, we're all experts on Monday morning! Like so many amazing places, there are interesting stories that define them. We're truly having a grand time both seeing and learning.

  4. You had me at the title “It’s all about the water”, especially when I got to the waterfall. So true about logging trucks looking bigger and more aggressive than others. Maybe it’s the small roads I always see them on. We know here at Shenandoah how the clouds dropping down on the mountain can change the way everything looks and feels. LOVE your sense of humor – LOL at the “board bottom duck”. Rare indeed. Thanks so much for all the campground names in that area. Really hope we’ll get there one day especially to see what for me too is a very emotional experience, seeing the river running free after years of being contained. Let the rivers flow! That Sun up there is the only energy source I know of that has no draw backs and is more than plentiful enough to supply all our needs.

    1. Thought of you when I saw the dam removed :-) At the time they voted to remove them, both dams were only producing enough power for less than half the usage of one saw mill.

  5. Here in the San Juan Islands one of the ferries is named the Elwha in honor of the river that has been set free. :-) So glad you made it to lovely Lake Crescent Lodge. Congratulations on seeing your very first waterfall!

    1. Thanks Laurel. It was our first one as full-timers, so very fun for us. Thanks for the heads up on the lodge, what a beautiful spot!