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03/12/17 - Elk and the Elwha

With Olympic Hot Springs Road closed, a lot of trails have been unreachable, so we've taken to walking the closed road from the closure at Madison Falls. The river is still beautiful, and the high country still beckons. We hope the park service manages to reopen the road at some point.

There was a herd of elk by the road on our way to Madison Falls. There were quite a few of them. As we move into spring, then summer, they'll be heading up to the high country. For now, we'll take advantage of the photo op.


An elk farm

Some elk

More elk

A horse watches the elk suspiciously

Even more elk

The mountains

Off the Elwha

The Elwha River

Another view of the Elwha

An artsy view of the Elwha

Lately, our favorite view of the Elwha

Keywords: elwha, spring, trails


02/24/17 - Along the Elwha

We took advantage of the bright sunny day to take a walk along the Elwha River from the Madison Falls parking lot. The sun was brilliant, and the day was brisk. They've closed the road again thanks to fresh flood damage, so we walked what is now a familiar route. The river is as beautiful as ever.

As a bonus, there was a field of snowdrops not far from the parking lot, so we stopped and took some pictures of this early sign of spring.


The damaged road, in case you were wondering why it is closed again

The Elwha River

Another view with almost silvery trees

The mountains

Old maples, gnarled and mossy

Another view up the Elwha

Roiling waters

Misty mountains across the way

A view downstream

Snowdrops ...

... and more snowdrops

Keywords: elwha, spring


02/16/17 - Marymere Falls in February

It has been a wintry month, and we haven't been getting out as much as we'd like. If nothing else, the Spruce Railroad Trail and all of the Elwha Valley trails are closed for construction and the high country is covered with snow. We did get out to Marymere Falls. It was a short walk from the parking lot, less than an hour round trip, but it was a nice taste of northwestern forest for the season.

The falls

The misty mountain trail

Looking down at Barnes Creek

The trail with a new handrail (on the right)

Barnes Creek again

The side stream from the falls

Another view of Barnes Creek

Keywords: elwha, high country, marymere falls, spruce railroad, trails


01/25/17 - Elwha Update

The Elwha River is running at full spate. Between the rains and recent thaw, there is lots of water under the bridge. We took a short walk to check out the flow.

The Elwha River

Madison Falls

Another Elwha view

Yet another view

Driftwood

This grows on the trees around here.

A winter scene on the Elwha

Keywords: elwha


01/22/17 - Marymere Falls and Barnes Creek

So many trails are closed this winter. Most of the Elwha River trails are closed while the flood damage is repaired, and the Spruce Railroad Trail is closed for the next step in its upgrade. The loop to Marymere Falls is one of the few trails still open, so we've been getting there fairly often. For a while, the trail was covered with snow. The Barnes Valley doesn't get a lot of sun this time of year, but the snows have melted, and the snow melt and recent rains have fed the river and the falls.

Marymere Falls, a healthy roar

The steps from the lower to the upper falls observation points, in National Park Modern

They've been rebuilding the bannisters along the trail

A view of Barnes Creek

The footbridge over Barnes Creek

Another view of Barnes Creek

The forest

Another view

and yet another

Keywords: elwha, marymere falls, spruce railroad, trails, winter


01/01/17 - The Elwha in the Snow

We took a walk along the closed part of Olympic Hot Springs again. This time it had snowed, so the trees were frosted and the river almost black. We only walked out for a half an hour, but we're contemplating heading farther next time, perhaps to the bridge over the river near Altair. It has been a cold snowy winter, so we'll get out when we can.

Olympic Hot Springs Road

The frosted forest

More frost, more forest

The river

Another view of the river

Snow covered driftwood

The view upriver

Yet another view of the river ...

... and another view of the forest

Keywords: elwha, winter


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.

Berries

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


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