Float Free Water

Olympic National Park, Washington

Mar 20, 2012
Outside Magazine
Elwha River

The newly liberated Elwha River, Washington    Photo: Rob Casey

Olympic National Park

Deep inside Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic is in the midst of the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history: the dismantling of the Elwha River’s 210-foot Glines and 108-foot Elwha dams, which will free some 70 miles of rollicking whitewater and serious salmon spawning grounds. Celebration is in order. Scope out the demolition derby from the observation spot above Elwha Dam (accessible via the Elwha Dam RV Park off Highway 112), where backhoes are knocking out the century-old plug. Then make for the whitewater. Port Angeles–based Olympic Raft and Kayak runs half-day trips between the two dams, putting in at Altaire Campground and taking out at the Highway 101 bridge, a half-dozen Class III rapids later ($54). Watch for eagles, ospreys, and elk. Your next move: set up shop in a shoreline cottage at historic Lake Crescent Lodge ($262), grab a two-day stand-up paddleboard rental from Olympic Raft and Kayak ($70), and splash around off the dock. Once you’re feeling comfortable, make the 1.5-mile paddle across the placid lake to the Devil’s Punch Bowl cove for some cliff jumping into the stunningly clear water. Then come back and gorge on pan-seared Muscovy duck breast, washed down with the lodge-brewed Singer’s Tavern ale.