Salmon Re-enter Olympic National Park River Thanks to Elwha Dam Removal

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“The National Park Service reported this week that adult Chinook (king) salmon have been seen in the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, less than five months after removal began on the Elwha Dam. According to the Park Service, the fish are the first of their kind known to enter the park through that river, since Olympic was established twenty-five years after the dam went up in 1913. (See a map of the region.)

The dam had blocked off more than 70 miles of formerly prime Elwha River habitat for the fish, which had been an important part of the local ecosystem and a key food source for local indigenous people.

As National Geographic previously reported, the Klallam Tribe still say that the Elwha River had been so full of salmon that a person could cross from one bank to the other by walking atop the thrashing bodies of fish struggling to move upstream to spawn.

According to the Park Service, Chinook were seen this week about two miles upstream from the park border by Phil Kennedy, the park’s lead fisheries technician.

Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) are the largest of the Pacific salmon, and historically entered rivers from California to Alaska, as well as in parts of Asia. Adult fish tend to range in length from 33 to 36 inches (840 to 910 mm) but may be up to 58 inches (1,500 mm). They average 10 to 50 pounds (4.5 to 23 kg), but may reach 130 pounds (59 kg). Their numbers have dropped due to loss of spawning grounds, and nine local populations are listed as threatened or endangered in the U.S.”

Read more: National Geographic


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