Detoxing from Dam Abuse: Changes on the Elwha River

Now that both dams have been removed, the river must detox itself from 100 years worth of trapped sediment & woody debris. We must appreciate this ‘ugly stage’ the river is going through in order to fully appreciate and enjoy the future Elwha River.

Elwha River prior to dam removalIMG_0649

Every river in the world that has a dam on it has changed the natural environment for better or worse.  The benefits of low-cost hydropower come with high cost effects to the natural environment.

2012 Elwha River pre dam removal 2013 Elwha River during dam removal

Nature has a way of perfection, a way that man cannot mirror.

Elwha River sediment moves through the forest

Elwha River Sediment

Once again these nutrients can travel to the Elwha Valley & the Strait of Juan De Fuca.


Prior to dam removal the Elwha’s pristine beauty brought many to experience the river, the glacial greenish blue color of the river was ever so impressive and will one day return to its former glory, a side of the Elwha River no person alive has ever experienced.  Above the dams, the river remains natural and beautiful.


Thousands experienced the Elwha prior to dam removal but only a handful of people have experienced a free-flowing Elwha River.  Since dam removal began, this predictable Class II section & the river as a whole, has morphed into an ever-changing, shifting, & shaping life form, the way the river should be, Wild & Free!


During high water flows we see the little river come alive, creating unstable banks, carrying wood and sediment, the natural process of a free-flowing river has returned to the Elwha.


Salmon of the Elwha River

A common phrase that I have heard from anti dam removal activists is that “They killed the river…” when in truth the river is more alive than ever before.

Although locals and tourists got to experience & create memories on two pristine reservoirs & a predictable Class II river section, below the surface of these memory makers was a death trap for the pure things that many live here for.

Unfortunately, what most have failed to mention is the a fact that we are going to have 100 years worth of human debris to clean up as well, there has been no money set aside for this and instead of playing the blame game, we have started the ongoing process of the cleaning it up.  If we can get a little trash out of the river everyday, we can help speed up the restoration and keep the trash from making it into the beautiful Salish Sea.


The river has been in a constant flood stage due to the release of sediment and the amount of woody debris, the thickness of the sediment being released in the water makes the Elwha look like a mud colored snake winding through the valley.



The only way to truly experience the dam removal is to be on the river.  With a bias opinion we say this; you cannot experience this river without being apart of it, in with it, alive with it…as most sit back to see what happens, we want to make it possible to experience what has and is happening.

A picture is worth 1000 words but an experience on the Elwha River is worth a lifetime.


Sensational Sitkum River: An Olympic Peninsula Gem

A special place for anyone who enjoys the flowing nature of a Wild Pacific Northwest River, with canyons, moss, fog, & waterfalls, this river will not disappoint.  Whether you are looking for Class II-V, the Sitkum has it all!


The Sitkum river is located on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula and takes a little time to get to but it is well worth it!  This was my first trip to the Sitkum since I moved to the peninsula two years ago.  Luckily I had veteran Sitkum paddler, Mike Hoover to show me the way, if the Sitkum is in you will find Mike on his way to paddle it!


A journey through 2nd & 3rd growth forests to the beginning of the run, as with many rivers, the Sitkum starts as a meandering creek.


Entering into the canyon, the Sitkum becomes a fun whitewater run with drops, slides, & waterfalls.  WATCH THE JOURNEY!


You will want to be on the lookout for wood and frequent scouting does occur.  Most places are easy to scout and get around if needed but a few require being a bit creative.  Below you will see Hoover gets ready to seal drop after deciding not to run the drop due to low water.


Don’t go left!


Hoover explaining the next drop.


Looking forward to getting back out on the Sitkum soon!


Sensational Sitkum River

Getting Scientific on the Elwha River

Since the dam removal project began, we have had the opportunity to take a variety of people down the river who are directly involved with the project.  It has been quite interesting hearing facts, opinions, & theories from different groups & different people.

Elwha River

Olympic National Park Elwha River

As we hear the different theories on how the river will reshape itself, we sit back and watch the river change right in front of our eyes.   The changes that are occurring on the Elwha are not only unique to this river but are unique to rivers around the world and are drastically changing the landscape that surrounds the river.

Salmon on the Elwha River

The amount of sediment and woody debris moving down the river is beyond comprehension and can only be experienced by visiting the river itself.


National Park Service Elwha River

About 100 years worth of sediment & woody debris is free to continue its natural path down the river after getting trapped behind the dams. (National Park Service Photos)

Not to mention the debris left behind by residents & tourists who enjoyed recreation on the two reservoirs, hear more about that in a future post ‘Dam Abuse:  Sending A River to Rehab.’  Find out more information at Olympic National Park’s Elwha Restoration Website and Facebook page.

Scientists on the Elwha River

Organizations such as NOAA, USGS, & the NPS, to name a few. have sent their teams to research, plan, and help restore this river to its former glory!

Bedrock of the Elwha River

Uncovering bed rock that has not seen daylight in almost a century, creating exciting new rapids under and in the water!

Landscape of the Elwha River

The river is showing its true power by the way it is shaping the surrounding landscape.

Elwha River Restoration Project Effects


Bank erosion on the Elwha River

When Kids Deserve a Good Paddling

We live on a planet that is 3/4 water AND we also live on the Olympic Peninsula, which is surrounded by 3/4 water.


So why is it that paddle sports are as foreign to our local youth as a hot desert climate?

Over the last two years I have worked hard to develop the Liquid Mountain Adventures – Paddle Sport Program. This program is designed for the local youth of the North Olympic Peninsula and has been tailored to fit the needs of both parents and children alike.


It has become a main goal of mine to get youth in the outdoors through kayaking & stand up paddleboarding.  Understanding the benefits of paddle sports for my personal growth, I also understand the benefits they can bring to the local youth.


Whether it is the calm beauty of Lake Crescent, the challenge of the Salish Sea, the surf of Salt Creek, or the raging rapids of the Sol Duc River…we live in a unique area of the world, where we can enjoy a lifetime of paddling right in our backyard.


In 2013, we introduced our instructional program to a few select group of kids from Crescent School in Joyce, Wa.  It was a great success leaving both parents and kids wanting more! 🙂 Click Here to read a great article about these awesome kids from the PDN: Healthy Living

Throughout the summer we offered pool sessions & supervised river trips.

IMG_1196 IMG_1199 IMG_1206



Students found out that kayaking offers much more than just fun on the water.  Find Out More!


On the final day of class, parents joined us on a raft trip to see how much fun their kids had been having!


We have found that learning comes naturally in the outdoor setting and kids come away with a lot more than just kayaking skills.  Sign Up Today!


Students get a lesson in lowering boats from guest instructor and PNW kayaking legend, Colby Mackley, a key skill to kayaking some of the most beautiful rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.


Thank you for reading and I hope we get the opportunity to meet on the water!  -The Colonel


Meet the Colonel

On the Hoh River in the Hoh Rainforest with Steve the Dog

Hello there…my name is Morgan Colonel, I am owner/guide/instructor for Olympic Raft & Kayak, out here on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula.

It looks like I will be keeping up with the times and become the blogger that I have always dreamed of 🙂  On a serious note, I am a raft guide, kayak guide, and both whitewater & sea kayak instructor who truly enjoys sharing what I love with so many people on the water so I think it will come somewhat naturally to share the same thing through blogging.

Morgan Colonel on the Sol Duc River

I hope I get to share many adventures from the Olympic Peninsula with you and stay tuned for more ramblings from a river guide!