In recent years, steelhead populations along the west coast of the United States have continued to dwindle. 2019 was another dismal year for steelhead returns throughout the Pacific Northwest, sparking fishing closures, with the usual suspects to blame—poor ocean conditions caused by marine heatwaves, the impacts of hatchery fish on wild populations and, of course, habitat degradation and the myriad other impacts of dams on watersheds that are historically home to anadromous fish. But, as documented in Trout Unlimited’s new film Rising from the Ashes , one river, Washington’s Elwha, has been an outlier. The fact that it is the Elwha River that has bucked the coast-wide trend is no small matter. The river was a longtime mantlepiece of dam removal advocates and, since the last pieces of its two dams were removed in 2014, it has become a living laboratory for hydrologists, marine and fish biologists, river morphologists and anyone else interested how dam removal aids river restoration. Historically, the Elwha was a vibrant river with robust runs of wild steelhead and all five species of pacific salmon. But, the construction of two dams in the early 1900s—the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams—blocked passage to 38 miles of […]

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