The waters of the Elwha River are clear right now, for a change.
For nearly three years, this glacier-fed river on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula has been sluicing millions of tons of sediment that were held back for a century by a pair of dams.
The dams are nearly gone. The Elwha Dam has been completely removed and the last 30 feet of the upper dam, known as the Glines Canyon Dam, is set to be demolished Tuesday.
A dry summer stretch has temporarily slowed the Elwha’s flow, keeping the sediments from muddying up the water.
The river was open for exploration until last weekend, when flows got too low.
“All right gang, who wants to get the wettest?” said Morgan Colonel, owner of Olympic Raft and Kayak in Port Angeles, Washington, as he pushes a bright blue raft full of curious passengers into the newly-accessible waters of the Elwha.
Within a few minutes the raft is high-centered on a rock in the river, her passengers bouncing up and down to dislodge her, hooting with delight.
“We’re kinda just figuring it out a little bit as we go,” Colonel said. “It’s a brand new river to pioneer.”