Chances are you have heard about Washington’s Elwha River. Back in 2011, the largest dam removal project in United States’ history began with Elwha Dam. Three years later, the Elwha River’s second dam came down–the Glines Canyon Dam. Today the Elwha flows free, and the wild summer-steelhead are returning to the once inaccessible upper-reaches of the river, in a true feat of nature.
Before the dam removals became a reality, the Elwha’s wild summer steelhead were nearly extirpated. Additionally, the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams blocked access for other species of fish and flooded culturally-important lands of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
Rising from the Ashes tells the unlikely story of wild summer steelhead returning to the newly-restored Elwha river in surprising numbers. John McMillan, science director for TU’s Wild Steelhead Initiative said, “there is one life history of fish in the Elwha that
really is a remarkable story, and that is summer run steelhead. They’re like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes.”
“I’ve spent time on the Elwha my entire life, making this comeback story really hit home for me and gives me a tremendous amount of hope during very challenging times for our fish, rivers and environment,” said the film’s director, Shane Anderson.
Shane is right. The fact that the Elwha’s recovery has been so effective in this short time period, only helps elevate the prospect of continued watershed restoration projects all over the country. Now we have conclusive evidence that wild, native fish–whether it be summer or winter steelhead, salmon, bull trout, you name it–will return to previously inaccessible reaches of water.
Be sure to give Rising from the Ashes a watch–it tells a great story that you won’t want to miss!