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October 24, 2013
Elwha: A River Reborn
November 23, 2013 – March 9, 2014
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Seattle – For centuries, the Elwha River has been more than a river. It has been the lifeline for the people, the animals, and the environment of the Elwha River Valley. Located in the beautiful temperate rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, the Elwha has kept this crucial ecosystem thriving, been a source of jobs and revenue for the local economy, and is at the heart of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe’s culture.
For the last 100 years, the Elwha River has been blocked by two dams – the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams. Built to provide hydroelectric power to the early settlement town of Port Angeles, the dams brought jobs and resources to a developing community. However, the dams were built violating state laws; there were no fish ladders or way for the salmon to pass through, cutting off the lifeline to a wide variety of animals, and severely impacting the livelihood and traditions of the Klallam people.
Step into the journey of the Elwha in the Burke Museum’s newest exhibit, Elwha: A River Reborn, based on a Mountaineers book of the same name by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman. Explore what life was like for the people and the animals that lived in the Elwha River Valley before the dams were built. Learn about the ambitions of those who thought the Elwha River would bring wealth, jobs, and promise to the region. Examine the impacts of the dams, which kept salmon from returning to their native streams for 100 years. Follow the decades-long fight to remove the dams, and celebrate the remarkable environmental renewal happening right now, even as the second dam is still being removed.
Elwha: A River Reborn brings together the people, places, and history of the Elwha. Featured in the exhibit are stunning photographs and stories from Mapes and Ringman’s book, as well as artifacts, cultural objects, and stories from the Klallam people. Visitors can see a time-lapse video of the dams coming down, and follow the researchers as they document the dramatic changes taking place every day. Also included are fish, plants, and other specimens from the Burke collection that were collected both before and after the dams were built. At “Camp Elwha,” an interactive campsite in the exhibit, visitors of all ages can try hands-on activities and explore what it’s like for the field researchers who are monitoring the daily changes to the Elwha River Valley.
This 321-square mile watershed is undergoing a change like never before—and the world is watching. The Elwha project is more than just a dam removal, it’s also one of the most ambitious ecological restoration projects ever undertaken—returning 70 miles of river to migrating fish and 800 acres of inundated habitat to elk and other wildlife, done in close partnership with the Klallam people. It is an unprecedented natural experiment, a chance to gather data on every component of the ecosystem, and track how it changes after the dams are removed. With over 500 dams slated for removal worldwide, much can be learned from the experience of our region.
Become a part of the conversation, and see firsthand how the Elwha means a second chance for the salmon, the people, and the environment of our state.
Image: Elwha Chinook return for their fall run to their hereditary spawning grounds, only to be blocked by Elwha Dam just 5 miles from the river mouth. Even after a century of futility the fish never stopped trying to come home. Photo by Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times.
Elwha: A River Reborn is based on a book of the same title by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman. The exhibit was developed by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in collaboration with The Seattle Times, Mountaineers Books, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
Support for Elwha: A River Reborn comes from: The Snoqualmie Tribe; Boeing; Rebecca S. and Robert M. Benton Endowed Fund; Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation; Quest for Truth Foundation; Educational Legacy Fund; Noreen Frink; Henry M. Jackson Foundation; Squaxin Island Tribe; Suquamish Tribe; Media Sponsor: KUOW.
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