With fewer than six months left in the countdown to dam removal on the Elwha River, Olympic National Park staff are working to repair roads in advance of construction-related traffic and to provide as much access for park visitors as is safely possible.
A summary of road and access information is provided below:
• Whiskey Bend Road
A recent assessment of slide damage to the Whiskey Bend Road by staff from Olympic National Park and the Federal Highways Administration has revealed extensive damage to the 4.5-mile long gravel road. Park staff now estimate that the road will remain closed to motor vehicles at least through the end of September.
The Whiskey Bend Road has been closed to all public vehicle traffic since Dec. 12, 2010, when a slide undermined the road following heavy rains.
The road remains open to pedestrians, bicyclists and stock users, who should be especially careful in the slide areas. The damaged areas are well-marked and hikers, cyclists and stock users are urged to walk, rather than ride, on the inside road shoulder in the vicinity of the slides. Hikers traveling north from the Quinault Valley still may exit via the Whiskey Bend trailhead and road.
• Olympic Hot Springs Road
Road repairs also are planned for the Fisherman’s Corner area of the Olympic Hot Springs Road, approximately one mile south of the Madison Falls trailhead. Short-term road closures may be necessary during these repairs, but timing details are not yet available.
Other than possible closures associated with repairs at Fisherman’s Corner, the Olympic Hot Springs Road is open and will remain open for travel through July 31.
Beginning Aug. 1, the Olympic Hot Springs Road will close to all public entry just above the Altair Campground to allow the dam removal contractor to prepare for the beginning of dam removal on Sept. 17. The road will remain closed at that location for the duration of dam removal, estimated to last up to three years.
The Elwha entrance station is being relocated to allow construction traffic to bypass the entrance station. Construction of the new entrance station access lane and location is under way; the area is flagged and short delays are possible. The entrance station will be at its new location by mid-May.
• Elwha Valley Campgrounds
The Altair campground will be open this summer from May 24-Sept. 6. The Elwha campground will remain open year-round, according to its regular schedule.
• Elwha Valley Trails
The trail between Humes Ranch and the Dodger Point bridge has extensive damage and is impassible at this time. More information and trail condition reports, as available, are posted at the park’s website, nps.gov/olym.
Beginning Aug. 1, when the Olympic Hot Springs Road closes, there will be no access to the Appleton Pass trailhead or Olympic Hot Springs from the Elwha Valley. Olympic Hot Springs still may be reached via a 14-mile hike from the Sol Duc Valley.
For more information about visiting Olympic National Park, visit the park’s website at nps.gov/olym. Detailed information about hiking and backpacking in the park, including options for exploration beyond the Elwha Valley, also is available at the park’s website and by calling the Wilderness Information Center at 360-565-3100.
More information about Elwha River Restoration can be found at nps.gov/olym or on Facebook at ‘Elwha River Restoration.’