Words and photos by Dave McCoy
The cacophonous boom of that explosion will forever resonate within me. With the flip of a switch, one hundred years of destructive history began to wash away. It was a new day—a day in which the Elwha was finally free. At long last, its waters could once again run unabated to the sea and its steelhead inhabitants could return to their long forsaken home waters.
It had been a tough century for Elwha steelhead. Once so numerous it was common lore you could walk across the river on their backs, the Elwha’s steelhead population crashed after construction of the infamous dams. With 90 percent of the watershed choked off, their habitat was essentially rendered obsolete and their numbers nearly followed suit.
That flip of a switch gave Elwha steelhead a fighting chance, something they had not had in a century. However, the State of Washington is now poised to let another man-made roadblock further depress Elwha steelhead stocks and undermine the recovery of wild fish—steelhead hatcheries.
Above: Releasing the greatest reward, a wild steelhead. All photos: Dave McCoy