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12/26/16 - The Elwha River and a Bobcat

Like many, we have been waiting for Olympic Hot Springs Road to reopen so we can return to the trails out of Whiskey Bend and revisit the hot springs themselves. To see how things were going, we parked at the Madison Falls parking lot and walked along the road, now closed to motorized traffic. The river was winter beautiful with snow on the hills and a cold gray light. The new temporary one lane bridge is in place and a fair bit of work has been done on the road.

We had some wonderful views of the river itself, but then, on our way back, we saw something else, a bobcat in the open field not far from the parking lot. We had seen a bobcat here before, but only briefly as it bounded away in the distance. This bobcat was closer and calmer. We were barely 50 feet away, close enough for an excellent view. It was a real treat in the face of a snowy winter and with so many trails closed in the park.

The Elwha River

Another view of the river

The river and snowy mountains

Across the river

The new bridge

Yet another view of the Elwha

Across the bridge

Through the woods

The bobcat

A closer view

And an even closer view

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, spring, trails, winter

06/14/16 - Elwha Update

Olympic Hot Springs Road is still closed at Madison Falls, but the wild river is still there. One rainy day, we went to take a brief look.

Even more river excitement

A view upriver

A view downriver

A view of the river bed

And another similar view

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs

05/16/16 - Elwha Update

The temporary bridge that would reopen the road to the Elwha and Olympic Hot Springs trail is still delayed. The last we heard is that there was a problem with the environmental impact statement, but this is just rumor. Meanwhile, the Olympic Hot Springs have been cut off due to structural problems with one of the bridges along the trail. Even if you had made your way to the trailhead, you would find your way blocked. We gather that Whiskey Bend Road is still open for hiking, so if you are heading out overnight there is still some access to the upstream Elwha.

The Elwha River

Another view of the river

Yet another view

We usually just drive by this view.


Click for a larger view. You can just see the snow covered mountains in the distance.

The trail closure notice

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs

05/01/16 - The Mouth of the Elwha

Now that the dams are down we returned to the mouth of the Elwha for the first time in years. Place Road leads north from route 112. It heads down towards the Strait. At the base of the descent, we took a left turn and found a place to park. Not much seems to have changed, though there were more cars parked there than last time.

We headed north along the lagoon. We could see Striped Peak across Freshwater bay to the west. Then we noticed our first change. There was a lot more beach here, and not just because it was low tide. The Elwha has been depositing silt and growing the beach about the river’s mouth. We walked out onto the beach. It reminded us a lot of Dungeness Spit, a great place for a picnic and exploring driftwood.

We followed the beach. There were gentle breakers as we headed north, then turned east. Then we met the Elwha, a big swift river now, riding out to the strait and meeting it with a wall of breakers. We turned south and followed the beach alongside the river. The freshwater flow was brisk and powerful. The Elwha has definitely changed since the dams were taken down.

Keywords: elwha, striped peak

03/26/16 - Madison Falls Revisited

Since we were parked right there, we took the short trail from the parking lot to Madison Falls. It’s one of the few handicapped accessible trails in the park and a real pocket gem. The falls here are not as high as Marymere Falls or as thunderous as the falls at Sol Duc, but they are a definite lift to the spirits.

Madison Falls

The Madison side stream leading to the Elwha

The easy going trail to the falls

Keywords: elwha

03/25/16 - More on the Elwha

The story is that there will be a new temporary bridge over the washout by early summer. Any more long term solution will have to take the undammed Elwha River into account. Rivers have lives of their own, so little side streams that were easy to ignore when the river was controlled may be major challenges. The campground, long high and dry for the most part, is now on a flood plain, as is the road. It may take some more serious shuffling and rethinking to keep the area open now that the river runs wild.

A map showing the river, the road, the campground and the washout

The washout

The new temporary bridge

Some restoration work

The original temporary bridge

The mighty Elwha

Drift wood

More Elwha: we were impressed.

A bend in the river

More driftwood

Another view

Keywords: elwha

03/24/16 - Up the Elwha With the Kalebergs

We parked near the entry booth at Madison Falls and made our way up the river along the road. We had a glimpse of the river near the parking lot but then stayed inland for a bit. Then the road turned, and we had a great view of the new Elwha. There are a couple of sharp turns here, so when the road is open all we get is a quick impression, but on foot we could walk along the river.

The river is much wilder than before the dam came down. Big trees and big rocks seem to have been tossed here and there, and the river has been exploring new channels, sliding around tons of gravel in the process. Then we crossed the temporary bridge, a sturdy wooden thing over a side channel that had washed out the road entirely.

We continued along the road and could see one of the snow covered mountains looming ahead of us. There were a few hikers heading that way. Two were going to camp at Humes Ranch, and a cheerful but overly optimistic group was aiming for the hot springs. We were much less ambitious.

There were thick green forests on either side of the road, but we found a side road leading off towards the river. The side road ended with a wash out, but we made our way to the river’s edge for another good look at the new river.

The road

The forest

The river

Another view of the Elwha

The Elwha again

Yet another view

More forest with old maples

The river further upstream

The river almost placid

More old trees and evidence of flood

The high country, still out of reach

Keywords: elwha

03/23/16 - Elk and the Elwha

The road to the Elwha river hiking areas washed out some time ago. There are plans afoot to reopen the area, but so far there is only a temporary pedestrian bridge. Missing the area, we decided to do a bit of exploring, so we turned off 101 onto Olympic Hot Springs Road.

On our way to Madison Falls, the end of the undamaged road, we noticed a field full of elk, so we stopped and took a few pictures. Elk are usually pretty calm and easy to photograph. In general, amateurs should avoid trying to get dynamic elk action photos. Leave that to the professionals.

Keywords: elwha, spring

11/04/15 - Return to Whiskey Bend

This has been a bad year for trails in the park. Whiskey Bend Road closed way back during the winter. The east end of the Spruce Railroad Trail closed back in July. Then this fall the whole Elwha area, including the recently reopened Olympic Hot Springs Trail, was closed due to flooding. The good news is that not only have the floods subsided and the hot springs trail reopened, but Whiskey Bend Road is open as well. They had to rebuild 90 feet of the road along one of the latter hairpins, but we drove out to Whiskey Bend the other day and found the road in great shape.

We took the main trail out past Michael's Cabin, then headed down towards the Elwha River. The winter sun was low and bright, but the forest was as pretty as we had remembered it. We made it down past Hume's Ranch to the river overlook. The river channel had moved farther across the flood plain to the far side, and there was a lot more plant life on the flat land. We spoke to a trail repair volunteer, and she told us that campers now had to walk farther to the river to get water. There had been some change in the watershed as well. A lot of the little streams that had run downhill to the river had dried up.

The little waterfall on our way down was running nicely, so the area isn't totally drought stricken. Still, it was sobering to hear about the changes. Now that the road is open again, we'll head out and explore a bit more. We're hoping to head towards Lilian Camp some time in the near future. Here's hoping for a wet and snowy winter, even if it crimps our plans a bit.

The trail was full of bright light and dark shadow.

The Elwha River looking towards Dodger Point in 2015

The Elwha River looking towards Dodger Point in 2013

The Elwha River looking downstream in 2015

The Elwha River looking downstream in 2013

The little waterfall

Light and shadow trail

The Elwha from a trailside lookout in 2015

The Elwha from a trailside lookout in 2013

One of our favorite views

The trail again

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, spruce railroad, trails, waterfall

01/23/15 - The Elwha and Madison Falls

We usually see the Elwha River from one of the hiking trails out of Whiskey Bend, but Whiskey Bend Road was washed out and will most likely be closed until some time this spring. We still wanted to see the river, so we pulled over along the road and walked carefully by the side to get a good look. There is sure a lot of water, and it is running wild. The color of the river has changed since the dam was taken down. Now it looks a lot more like the Hoh.

We also checked out Madison Falls. This is a little waterfall a short, easy walk from the main road. The trail is flat and wide, so you could even do it in a wheel chair. It might not be far, but it is worth stopping for. Madison Falls was one of three waterfalls that a friend of ours suggested for taking visitors to on a rainy day. The other two were Marymere Falls near Barnes Creek and Sol Duc Falls a bit farther away at the end of Sol Duc Road. For the best effect, start with Madison, then stop at Marymere, then at Sol Duc.

The Elwha River now that it runs free

Looking upriver

Another river view

Bend in the river

A view downriver

Lots of water

The old maples near the Madison Falls parking lot

Madison Falls proper, just a short, easy walk

Madison Falls - Click on the image for a slow motion video.

Keywords: elwha, trails, waterfall

11/19/14 - The Old Glines Canyon Dam

The road to the trailhead for Olympic Hot Springs heads past the Altair camp ground and heads along the west side of what was once Lake Mills, much as Whiskey Bend Road follows the east side. We noted the new observation area accessible from Whiskey Bend Road. On the west side of the lake we saw them building another access area on the western remains of the old dam. Further along the road there was a viewpoint with a little parking area that gave a great view of the dam, the old lake bed and the Elwha River. It's worth a stop if you are heading out that way.

The Glines Canyon Dam as it is today

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs

11/06/14 - Whiskey Bend and the Elwha

We took a short walk from Whiskey Bend down to the Elwha River. Despite the recent rains, the river is far from flooded, but the trail was pretty. The foliage color is nothing like the glory of a New England autumn, but we could see definite signs of fall. We also saw the new viewing station for the river where the old dam used to be.

A bit of autumn color

A bit more autumn color - still kind of subtle

Trees and late season light

The Elwha

A bit of snow on the foothills

Whiskey Bend Road - It's not that scary.

The new viewing area where the old dam was

Keywords: autumn, elwha

04/24/14 - Whiskey Bend Trilliums and Mushrooms

Whiskey Bend Road has been open most of the winter, but we hadn't taken its narrow, twisting four and a half miles since the fall. Well, the road is as narrow and twisting as ever, but spring is upon is. The trail is as lovely as ever, but now the mushrooms and trilliums are out. We only got as far as the cabin, but we'll get in shape as the season progresses and head farther.

Micheal's Cabin

Mushrooms erupting

Little mushrooms

Sponge like mushrooms

The view

A trillium

Little orchids

Wild vegetation

More trilliums

Yellow violets

A little stream

Keywords: spring, trillium, elwha

04/22/14 - Lake AngelesTrilliums

It's definitely spring. The trilliums aren't as far advanced as at Lake Crescent, but they are coming out on the trail to Lake Angeles.

The trail - long time, no see

A trillium - It really is green here.

A trillium bud opening

Keywords: elwha, spring, trillium

11/23/13 - The Trail Out of Whiskey Bend

It was a really bright day, not the best day to drive from the Elwha Ranger Station out to Whiskey Bend, especially now with the sun so low in the sky. Still, it wan't that bad a drive, and it was a wonderful hike we had. Most of the deciduous trees had lost their leaves, so the sun shone brightly through to the forest floor. Through the tree tops we could glimpse the snow covered mountains west of the river. The trail was hypnotic.

Michael's Cabin

Ferns on the forest floor

The hypnotic trail

An overlook

Snow covered mountains

More hypnotic trail

A ragged section

Keywords: elwha

08/05/13 - Lillian Camp

We recently surprised ourselves. We took what we expected to be a modest walk out from Whiskey Bend, but rather than punking out at Michael's Cabin, we made it all the way to the Lillian River.

When we started, we were sure we weren't going to get far. We didn't even bring a bottle of water, but as we hiked along we realized that we were much less tired than we expected. Surely, the 400 foot climb from the cabin to the first crossing would leave us exhausted. No, it didn't. How about continuing to the overlook. That should tucker us out. Nope. Well, the second crossing was right there, then over the bridge and through the stunted forest.

We were absolutely certain that by the time we reached the junction where the trail starts its descent to the Lillian River we would be barely able to stand. Instead, we were eager to head down and check out the rushing blue waters.

The return walk went just as well. Yes, we were tired when we got back to our car, but not anywhere near as tired as we had expected. It was a great hike and, all told, a pleasant surprise.

A cool, bright day

The Lillian River one way

and another

Fern forest

The view from the overlook

Keywords: elwha

05/08/13 - Elwha - Down to the River

We didn't really get down to the river, but we get down far enough to have a good view of it. The glacial melt is starting, but it's still early in the season. The tiarella are not yet in bloom, so we'll probably have to come down to the woods near Hume's ranch to watch their progress. Meanwhile the trilliums are starting to show their age with many petals turning a subtle pink.

One thing we particularly noticed, as we took this hike on a very sunny day, was that while most of the trail is purely of the Pacific northwest, there are dry stretches where one turns a bend or comes out of the forest, and it feels as if one were hiking in California. The vegetation changes, and the smell of the trail changes. If we didn't know the trail and where we were, we'd imagine we were hundreds of miles south. Then, the trail turns or reenters the forest, and we are back in the Pacific northwest.

Hume's Ranch

The Elwha river

Another view of the river

Tiarella, not yet in bloom

A little waterfall right by the trail

The forest on a very bright spring day

The cathedral of the woods

We never tire of this view of the river.

A trillium, turning pink in passing

Keywords: elwha, spring, waterfall

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