VANCOUVER, WASH. -- After being cut off for more than a century by a massive dam, a northwest river is free flowing once again.
It was just over a year ago that crews started removing the Condit Dam from the White Salmon River. And just last week, the final remnants of the old dam were taken out, allowing the river to run free for the first time since 1913 when the dam was built.
Background: Condit Dam breached
Photo timeline: Condit dam demolition
KGW Newschannel 8 reporter Keely Chalmers and photographer Karl Peterson got the unique opportunity to make history as one of the first to take a trip down the newly opened stretch of river on a raft.
Although it’s not yet taking clients down this section of the river, Wet Planet Rafting made a special trip to take our crew down.
They put in at a spot that just a year ago was a reservoir.
“This was all under water for 90 years,” explained rafting guide Drew Parker.
What was once deep water is now whitewater. Once lake-front homes are now set back a bit. And what used to be a lazy boat ride is now a wild trip through a deep canyon.
Head through the area where the massive dam structure used to be, and you’ll find almost no evidence it was ever there. And once past the old dam site, the White Salmon River gets a bit wild.
It forced our crew to get out and walk around some pretty intense rapids.
But it's the way nature intended this river to be.
“We made a real focused attempt to get every little piece of concrete out and to restore it back to as native of a landscape as we could,” said Todd Olson, PacifiCorp’s project manager for the Condit Dam removal.
But, not all were happy with the changes.
“I've gone to sleep a couple times thinking that I might be floating down the river,” said Ted Horsch, who lives along the water. When the reservoir drained, the bank near his home began to erode.
“The side of it is going down,” he said. Horsch is now trying to get it stabilized.
Meantime, neighbor Scott Ellsworth welcomes the change.
“I realized at some point I was going to be able to kayak from here down and pass the salmon coming back up,” said Ellsworth.
PacifiCorp has warned boaters to be careful when exploring the newly opened stretch of river.
Wet Planet Rafting hopes to start running organized trips down that section by next year.