The Elwha is once again open to vehicle traffic, for the first time since late November 2015, when a series of severe storms brought heavy rain and flooding to the Elwha River. During that storm, approximately 90 feet of roadway washed out, with additional sections severely eroded and damaged by flood waters. While the road opening is great, keep in mind of a few things.
The Elwha campground is closed indefinitely due to severe flood damage. The Altair campground was destroyed by flooding and will be re-opened as a day-use area. Also, the road is open as only far as the Glines Canyon Overlook. The Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed just above the Glines Canyon Dam due to snow and ice, while the Whiskey Bend Road also remains closed due to winter conditions. When those roads open, we will be the first to let you know.
Last summer, Olympic National Park crews installed a temporary bridge in hopes of reopening the road in fall. However, according to the National Park Service Press Release, an October storm event lead to increased activity in a side channel of the Elwha and intermittent minor flooding of the road just upstream of the new bridge. The road remained closed to allow park staff to monitor and more fully evaluate the frequency and severity of any flood events.
“We urge all park visitors to be informed and prepared before entering the more remote areas of Olympic National Park,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “Especially during the winter months, people should check the current weather forecast before heading into the park.”
Monitoring of the road and side channel and analysis of long-term weather patterns indicates that the road may now be opened to vehicles. In the event of heavy rains or high river flows, water may flow over the road. During last week’s storm series, water flowing over the road surface reached about two to three inches in depth.
The Elwha Region is best know for classic day hikes such as the trail to Goblins Gate, Humes and Michaels Cabins, Olympic Hot Springs and the Grand Canyon of the Elwha. To see the highlights of the Elwha, please follow this link. The Elwha is also the route of the 1889-90 Press Expedition that crosses Low Divide and drops into the Quinault Rainforest. For more hiking ideas and destinations, consider getting our Definitive Guide to Olympic National Park. No trip to the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest is complete without Doug Scott’s definitive guidebook on this diverse and beautiful region. With over 400 pages of content, this book will help anyone visiting the region plan the perfect trip, and let those living in the area know more about the place they call home.