Elwha River Hiking and Dam Removal Tours, Olympic National Park

Coho Salmon jumping out of the water to get past a barrier in the river

The Elwha River's return to wild

Learn about old-growth forest ecology and how a core Olympic National Park river is rapidly transforming from a former member of the Elwha River Wildlife Research Team on Elwha River hiking and dam removal tours

Local rates on Olympic National Park guided ecotours

A large healthy female elk in a mossy forest with ferns

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 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 Elwha River ecosystems are being restored. The increase in salmon following Elwha River Dam Removal is improving wildlife viewing opportunities - over twenty wildlife species have been found feeding on nutrient-rich salmon carcasses.  Elwha River hiking and dam removal tour 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.

Estuary, forest, and clear view of the Elwha River mountain range in the background

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 Elwha Dam Removal. 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 dam removal 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 dam removal tours

Turquoise blue Elwha River pooling and narrowing in a small canyon

Scroll down to view Olympic National Park Elwha River wildlife photographs, including lists of Olympic National Park mammals, birds, plants and “others.”  We made these lists during Elwha River hikes in 2012.  A separate Olympic Peninsula Biodiversity page highlights reasons behind some of the unique flora and fauna found on an Elwha River hiking and dam removal tours, Olympic National Park.

Elwha River hiking and dam removal tours: Olympic National Park mammals list

Olympic National Park mammals viewed from an Elwha River hike on May 27, 2012

Black Bear, Douglas Squirrel (Chickaree), Townsend's Chipmunk, Roosevelt Elk, and Black-tailed Deer.

An extremely large and healthy River Otter posed perfectly for the camera

Additional Olympic National Park mammals and mammal sign from an Elwha River dam removal tour at the river mouth (Strait of Juan de Fuca) on August 6, 2012

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 dam removal tours

Long-tailed Weasel and Mountain Lion (Cougar) sign.

Cougar claw and bone on a bed of moss

Elwha River hiking and dam removal tours: bird list

Olympic National Park birds heard or seen from hiking the Elwha River on May 27, 2012

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.

Portrait of a Barred Owl on the branch of a tree

Additional Olympic National Park birds from an Elwha River hike on July 11, 2012

Great Blue Heron, Barred Owl, Common Nighthawk, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Common Raven, Violet-Green Swallow, Brown Creeper, and Pacific Wren.

Adult bald eagle soaring overhead

Additional Olympic National Park birds from an Elwha River dam removal tour at the river mouth (Strait of Juan de Fuca) on August 6, 2012

Yellow Banana Slug with one central black dot on the mantle and blotchy black from the back of the mantle to the end of the body

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 dam removal 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

Red-legged frog generally have red hind legs, more visible on its ventral side (which is not shown in this shot)

Elwha River hiking and dam removal tours: "other" list

Olympic National Park flora and fauna from an Elwha River hike on May 27, 2012

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 on July 11, 2012

Red-Legged Frog and Russula mushroom.

Close-up of the front half of a Rough-Skinned Newt

Additional Olympic National Park flora and fauna possible on Elwha River hiking and dam removal 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 dam removal tour: plant list

Olympic National Park plants viewed from an Elwha River hike on May 27, 2012

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).

Close-up head-on view of a purple orchid flower

The White Fawn Lily has a nodding white flower

Additional Olympic National Park plants viewed from an Elwha River hike in montane forest (middle elevation) and lowland forest on June 17, 2012

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 on July 11, 2012

Pacific Madrone, Twinflower, Thimbleberry, Foamflower, Trail Plant (Pathfinder), and Indian Pipe.

Some additional specialty Olympic National Park plants possible on Elwha River hiking and dam removal tours

Sitka Spruce, Western White Pine, Western Yew, Coralroot, Pinesap, Pinedrops, and Candystick.

Read Elwha River hiking and dam removal reviews that describe touring with Carolyn of ExperienceOlympic Guided Tours