In what appears to be yet another casualty of the wettest fall in Pacific Northwest history, access to one of the most pristine wilderness regions on the Olympic Peninsula is restricted. During one of the many storm events of 2016, the bridge crossing Lena Creek, leading into the Brothers Wilderness, was severely damaged. The bridge is impassible, with the National Forest Service issuing a strict warning to hikers to not cross the bridge at all. The impact of the damaged bridge also restricts access to campsites at the north end of Lena Lake, one of the most popular destinations on the eastern side of the Olympics.
According to Olympic National Forest Service employees, during one of the many storms hitting our region this fall, the bridge was wrecked. For the past few weeks, storm damage had caused a backup of debris upstream from the Lena Creek Bridge. Once the dam broke, the rush of water pushed rocks, dirt and downfall downstream, eroding the banks and causing more trees to fall. The bridge was knocked off its already eroded foundation, twisting and shattering as more trees came crashing down on the wooden path.
The bridge is not to be used by anyone, and from firsthand reports, isn’t something anyone would want to walk across anyway. Those hoping to still access the north side of Lena Lake and The Brothers Wilderness need to use extreme caution fording the creek. Water levels can fluctuate without warning during the fall, winter and spring months, so only experienced hikers should even attempt crossing the creek without a bridge. By the time summer rolls around, the creek will run slow and will be easily crossed, but until then, be extremely careful and use good judgement. The bridge is not expected to be repaired anytime soon, thanks to a Congress that refuses to fully fund our National Forests and National Parks.
Now, just to be clear for those who kinda know the area- this is the bridge past Lunch Rock on the other side of the first round of campgrounds. Access to Lena Lake itself is not impacted at all by the ruined bridge. Upper Lena Lake is also completely open, though the Upper Creek crossing will be extremely difficult, as always. South of the Bridge, camping is fine. The bridge only impacts those camping on the north side of the lake or hoping to access to the Brothers Wilderness or climb The Brothers peak.
Lena Lake is one of five major hiking destinations along the Hamma Hamma River on the Olympic Peninsula. The Lena Lake Trail is one of the few roads on the Hood Canal side of the region that is reached via a paved road, making this an extremely popular destination for hikers and backpackers of all levels and abilities.
At this time of year, people should expect washouts of varying magnitude all around the Olympic Peninsula. Trees will have fallen on your favorite trails and trail updates may not reflect all the damage occurring to the hikes. If you come across a damaged road or trail, please report it to the proper agency, which is usually either the National Forest Service or National Park.