Elwha: A River Reborn, a new exhibit from the Burke Museum, takes you to the Northwest’s legendary Elwha River Valley to discover the people, places, and history behind a remarkable local story—and the largest dam removal project ever undertaken.
[The Elwha] Restoration project is a testament to what can happen when diverse groups find a way to work together and achieve shared goals of restoration for a river, a people, an ecosystem, and a national park.
—Jan Jarvis, National Park Service Director.
Based on a Mountaineers book of the same name by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman, Elwha: A River Reborn takes visitors on a journey to the Northwest’s legendary Elwha River Valley to discover the people, places, and history behind a remarkable story—and the largest dam removal project ever undertaken. Through first-person accounts, stunning photographs, and informative text printed on free-standing banners, visitors follow the Elwha’s journey from abundant wilderness to economic engine—to an unprecedented experiment in restoration and renewal that has captured global attention.
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. 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.
How did the Elwha dams go from being celebrated for bringing “peace, power and civilization” to the Valley, to being slated for demolition by an Act of Congress? How did the Pacific Northwest, a region synonymous with hydropower, become a dam-busting pioneer? Visitors discover all of this and more at Elwha: A River Reborn.
Elwha 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. National touring sponsor: The Snoqualmie Tribe.
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