The Elwha River's return to wild
Explore old-growth forest ecology and a wild and free Elwha River from a former member of the Elwha River Wildlife Research Team on Elwha River hiking and restoration tours on the Olympic Peninsula.
How Elwha Old-Growth compares to the Hoh Rainforest
Although Olympic National Park's old-growth forests in the Elwha River Valley are not technically defined as rainforest, all the same wildlife species and most of the same plant speces are present. The Elwha River Valley includes a plethora of hiking trails that are typically less crowded and less impacted by humans and elk when compared to the Hoh Rainforest. Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock dominate in the Elwha, while Sitka Spruce largely replaces Douglas Fir in the Hoh Rainforest because of the increased levels of rainfall.
The Elwha River dams are history
The Elwha River was a highly productive salmon river before construction of two dams in the early 20th century. With the completion of Elwha River Dam Removal in 2014, the river has returned to its beautiful turquoise blue color after hundred-year old sediment has been redistributed downstream and the Elwha River ecosystems are being restored. The increase in salmon with the Elwha River Restoration is improving wildlife viewing opportunities - over twenty wildlife species have been found feeding on nutrient-rich salmon carcasses. Elwha River hiking and restoration tours will highlight Olympic National Park old-growth forest ecology as well as the impact of the dams blocking salmon, sediment, and woody debris for close to a century.
Importance of the Elwha River
The Elwha River drains close to twenty percent of Olympic National Park’s near one million acres, highlighting the extent of pristine salmon habitat tied to the Elwha River Restoration. Your naturalist guide has hiked and discovered excellent Olympic National Park wildlife viewing opportunities from the Elwha River mouth to approximately thirty river miles upstream. Sites visited on Elwha River hiking and restoration tours might include the sites of the former Elwha Dams and former reservoirs, the wildlife-rich river mouth and estuary, riparian forests and meadows, river canyons, side-channels, and floodplains.
Outstanding Olympic National Park Biodiversity found on Elwha River hiking and restoration tours
Scroll down to view Olympic National Park Elwha River wildlife photographs, including lists of Olympic National Park mammals, birds, plants and “others.” A separate Olympic Peninsula Biodiversity page highlights reasons behind some of the unique flora and fauna found on an Elwha River hiking and restoration tours, Olympic National Park.
Elwha River hiking and restoration tours: Olympic National Park mammals list
Olympic National Park mammals viewed from an Elwha River hike in May
Black Bear, Douglas Squirrel (Chickaree), Townsend's Chipmunk, Roosevelt Elk, and Black-tailed Deer.
Additional Olympic National Park mammals and mammal sign from an Elwha River restoration tour at the river mouth (Strait of Juan de Fuca) in August
Harbor Seal, River Otter latrine, and Beaver-chewed woody debris.
Some additional Olympic National Park mammals and mammal sign possible on an Elwha River hiking and restoration tours
Long-tailed Weasel and Mountain Lion (Cougar) sign.
Elwha River hiking and restoration tours: bird list
Olympic National Park birds heard or seen from hiking the Elwha River in May
Mallard, Harlequin Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye, Ruffed Grouse, Spotted Sandpiper, Band-tailed Pigeon, Vaux's Swift, Rufous Hummingbird, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Hammond's Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Stellar's Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Dipper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, Swainson's Thrush, American Pipit, Yellow Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco.
Additional Olympic National Park birds from an Elwha River hike in July
Great Blue Heron, Barred Owl, Common Nighthawk, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Common Raven, Violet-Green Swallow, Brown Creeper, and Pacific Wren.
Additional Olympic National Park birds from an Elwha River restoration tour at the river mouth (Strait of Juan de Fuca) in August
Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Pelagic Cormorant, Common Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Accipiter sp., Bald Eagle, Killdeer, “Olympic” Gull (cross between Glaucous-winged Gull and Western Gull), Marbled Murrelet, Belted Kingfisher, American/Northwestern Crow, Cedar Waxwing, and American Goldfinch.
Some additional Olympic National Park birds possible on Elwha River hiking and restoration tours on the river itself or at the mouth.
Red-throated Loon, Pacific Loon, Red-Necked Grebe, Northern Pintail, Long-tailed Duck, Mew Gull, California Gull, Herring Gull, Thayer’s Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Heerman's Gull, Caspian Tern, Varied Thrush, Evening Grosbeak. Purple Finch, and Pine Siskin
Elwha River hiking and restoration tours: "other" list
Olympic National Park flora and fauna from an Elwha River hike in May
Pacific Sideband (snail), Banana Slug, Almond-Scented Millipede, Tree Frog tadpoles, Cascade Frog, Northwestern Garter Snake, and Oyster Mushroom.
Additional Olympic National Park flora and fauna viewed from hiking the Elwha River in July
Red-Legged Frog and Russula mushroom.
Additional Olympic National Park flora and fauna possible on Elwha River hiking and restoration tours
Rough-skinned Newt (early spring), Northwestern Toad (eggs visible on gravel bars in spring), Chanterelle Mushroom (fall), and Lobster Mushroom (fall).
Elwha River hiking and restoration tour: plant list
Olympic National Park plants viewed from an Elwha River hike in May
Western Hemlock, Douglas-Fir, Grand Fir, Western Redcedar, Red Alder, Bigleaf Maple, Black Cottonwood, Salal, Red Huckleberry, Common Snowberry, Nootka Rose, Salmonberry, Trailing Blackberry, Vine Maple, Oregon-Grape, False Solomon's Seal, Star-Flowered False Solomon's Seal, Fairybells, Trillium, Calypso Orchid (Fairyslipper), Rattlesnake-Plantain (orchid), Spring Beauty, Miner’s-Lettuce, Stonecrop, Buttercup, Larkspur, Goatsbeard, Wild Strawberry, Vetch, Lupine, Violet, Pacific Waterleaf, Spreading Phlox, Paintbrush, Oxeye Daisy, Aster, Stinging Nettle, Vanilla Leaf, Pacific Bleeding Heart, Stinky Bob (Herb-Robert), Starflower, Bedstraw, Bracken Fern, Sword Fern, Lady Fern, Oak Fern, Licorice Fern, Maidenhair Fern, and Horsetails (Equisetum).
Additional Olympic National Park plants viewed from an Elwha River hike in montane forest (middle elevation) and lowland forest in June
Bald Hip Rose, Red-flowering Currant, Douglas Maple, White Fawn Lily, Prince's Pine, and Henderson's Checker-Mallow.
Additional Olympic Natinal Park plants viewed from hiking the Elwha River in July
Pacific Madrone, Twinflower, Thimbleberry, Foamflower, Trail Plant (Pathfinder), and Indian Pipe.
Some additional specialty Olympic National Park plants possible on Elwha River hiking and restoration tours
Sitka Spruce, Western White Pine, Western Yew, Coralroot, Pinesap, Pinedrops, and Candystick.
Read Elwha River hiking and restoration tour reviews that describe touring with Carolyn of Experience Olympic Guided Tours