WHITE SALMON, Wash. -- Mother Nature is reclaiming an ancient river bed in Southwest Washington State.

With the breaching of the Condit dam two weeks ago, the free-flowing White Salmon River has carved a deep canyon through sediment above the dam.

It s an impressive sight for many like Brett VandenHeuvel. His group, Columbia River Keeper, worked with others for several years to get the dam removed.

I haven t seen this, these stumps are just the last, you know, last few days. This is spectacular, he said as he looked over the newly formed gorge.

The reservoir above the dam was called Northwest Lake. Over the years, layer after layer of sediment built up on the bottom of the lake. After the breaching, it drained in hours and then the river began slicing deeper and deeper through the sediment. In some areas the canyon through the old reservoir is now 80-feet deep.

This is just thick silt, said VandenHeuvel. You know, the sediment just piled up for a hundred years and it's really fine sediments this far down but those old cobbles, the white cobbles down there, I mean that's the old river bed! he pointed out.

Now the stumps of trees cut down when the dam was built are re-emerging and bedrock exposed for the first time in a century decorates the new walls of the White Salmon.

At the mouth of the river, Chief Johnny Jackson from the Klikitat and Cascade tribes, watches as the silt and sediment flows down river and fills in around his dock.

For several years now, from way back I was wanting and waiting to see that dam go, he said.

Before the Bonneville Dam was built out on the Columbia, Jackson said, the land where his dock floats was dry. But the water backed up after the dam was built. Now he's pleased the destruction of the Condit Dam is once again filling in his land.

He looks forward to the return of stronger salmon runs now, too.

Fish come back like they were in the beginning, I think it'll be better for everybody, he said.

The White Salmon River has done much to change this landscape in the two weeks it has run free. Many who love it can t wait to see what it does in the years to come.

Read or Share this story: