Shifting Quinault River Threatening Historic Structure At Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park officials are trying to figure out the best way to save the Enchanted Valley Chalet, a historic structure being threatened by the shifting main channel of the East Fork Quinault River.
Recent ground and aerial photographs of the Enchanted Valley in the park show that the river channel has shifted and is flowing within several feet of the historic Enchanted Valley Chalet.
Migration of the East Fork Quinault’s channel is common, particularly in the wide, flat expanse of Enchanted Valley, say park officials. Storms, fallen trees, rockslides and simply the constant process of deposition and erosion can all cause the river to shift and carve a new channel, they note.
“We are very concerned about the future of the chalet, as well as possible impacts to the river,” said Olympic Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “The chalet has a great deal of local and regional significance and is well-known to anyone who’s traveled to Enchanted Valley in the past 75 years.”
Park staff is working now to fully assess the situation and determine the best course of action.
“Our options are limited, however, given Enchanted Valley’s remote location within the Olympic Wilderness and the river’s dynamic force," said the superintendent.
A routine monitoring program of biweekly aerial photography flights will provide park cultural and natural resource experts with current information about the upper East Fork Quinault and the chalet. These experts are also working closely with the Pacific West Regional Office of the National Park Service, the Washington State Historic Preservation Officer, and other partners and concerned citizens.
Located 13 miles up trail from the Graves Creek trailhead in the Quinault Valley, the chalet was built by Quinault Valley residents in the early 1930s, prior to establishment of Olympic National Park. It served as a lodge for hikers and horse riders in Enchanted Valley.
Enchanted Valley is within the Olympic Wilderness, designated in 1988 and is a popular wilderness destination. The chalet is used as a backcountry ranger station and emergency shelter for hikers. The chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.