ELWHA RIVER, Clallam County — Beavers are back. It’s not hard to tell. The signs are everywhere: felled trees and branches, with telltale tooth marks. Soft sedge meadows dimpled with belly tracks from beavers hustling to and fro. And in thickets of young alder and willow — a 24/7 beaver cafe — multiple dams, built in a side channel of this reborn river. The dams are subtle, just sticks pushed into a row, bank to bank, and a bit of mud. But the dams do the trick these genius eco-engineers are so good at, creating pools to ease their travels by swimming, rather than walking, to their favorite snack spot. Created in the making of their dams, too, is a boost for salmon: These pools are perfect spots for juvenile salmon to rest and feed. The intertwined lives of beaver and salmon emerging here is one more sign that the ecosystem-scale restoration of the Elwha, with the world’s largest-ever dam removal project, begun in 2011 and completed in 2014, is taking hold. While salmon have always been the marquee species of this recovery, as the river from the mountains to the sea returns to a more natural state, all […]

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