A little over a year ago, a 125-foot-tall dam stood in Washington’s White Salmon River, a concrete plug with a serene reservoir at its back and a trickle of river spilling out downstream.
But it’s hard to tell that today.
The Condit Hydroelectric Dam, which was built in the early 1900s to harness the energy of the White Salmon for local industry, was blasted into the history books in October 2011 with 700 pounds of carefully placed dynamite.
The explosion, part of a phased project orchestrated by dam operator Pacificorp as an alternative to building costly fish passages, released the White Salmon River in a torrent of muddy water, debris and sediment, draining Northwestern Lake in less than two hours and freeing the river for the first time in almost a century.
Since that time, demolition crews have completed the removal of some 35,000 cubic yards of concrete, as well as logjams and other debris in the river.
And when public-access restrictions were lifted in early November, a group of boaters, river activists, biologists, rafting guides and kayakers converged for a historic float.
[Above: Washington’s White Salmon river was officially opened to boaters this month after the removal of the Condit Dam, and spawning salmon have already been spotted upstream for the first time in a century. Photos by Ben Knight/DamNation]