Largest dam removal in U.S. history begins at Olympic National Park

This weekend the largest dam removal project in U.S. history will begin on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, located in the state of Washington. The three-year process to dismantle both the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams will free the river for the first time in nearly a century and is expected to have a restorative effect on the park’s ecosystem, as well as an economic impact on the surrounding communities.

According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the removal of the two dams is expected to boost the salmon population in the river from an estimated 3000 now to nearly 400,000 once the project is complete. Researchers believe that they’ll see the return of all five species of Pacific salmon to the river, as native species return to their previous habitats. Those fish provide important nutrients and resources for more than 130 species of both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife in the region, including other fish, bears, and eagles. Those populations are expected to thrive as well, once the salmon numbers increase to their natural levels.

The benefits to the region don’t end there however, as the removal of the dams is also expected to bring new economic opportunities as well. The dramatic increase in fish populations should lure in both sport and commercial fishermen, and the newly opened 70-mile river corridor will offer fantastic paddling too. The NPCA estimates that the Elwha River restoration project could bring as many as 500,000 new visitors to the area on an annual basis, translating into an additional $57 million per year in the local economy.

As the dam removal process gets underway, conservationists and fans of the national parks have kicked off an official dam-breaking festival known as Celebrate Elwha. Over the next few days, the festival will host a number of music and art events, as well as several guest speakers, as the Park Service, the NPCA, and the community celebrate this important step towards restoring the natural environment at Olympic.

This is such an important move in creating a healthier environment in the park and the wilderness around it. I applaud everyone involved in getting these dams removed and opening up the river once again. If you’ve ever visited the Elwha River valley in the past, you will definitely want to schedule a return trip in a few years time, as it is likely to be a very different place in the years ahead.

Storm watchers invited to experience La Niña at Olympic National Park

Long range weather forecasts indicate that we can expect La Niña to have a direct impact on our weather patterns in the months ahead. That powerful natural force tends to sit off the west coast, causing pacific water temperatures to drop while creating storms that can dump rain and snow on large parts of the U.S.

For many of us, the mere thought of these storms is enough to send us scrambling for dryer and warmer conditions, but for adventure travelers and storm watchers, the thought of catching La Niña in her full fury is an opportunity that is often too good to miss.

To help facilitate that, the Kalaloch Lodge, located in Olympic National Park, is offering a Storm Watchers Package that is available now through March 12, 2011, which is when the weather phenomenon is expected to start to fade. The package runs $149/night and includes lodging in a personal cabin located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The rate also includes breakfast for each person, a souvenir blanket with the Olympic National Park logo on it, and perhaps most importantly of all, rain ponchos for everyone as well. Additional nights can be added for just $99 each. Simply use the promo code STORM10 when booking.

Not to be outdone, the nearby Lake Quinault Lodge is offering a Storm Watchers Package of their own. This package is also available for the same dates as the Kalaloch Lodge and includes a warm and dry fireplace or lakeside room and a rainforest tour for two. The lush forests that surround Lake Quinault receive as much as 12 feet of precipitation between October and March each year, and experiencing those rains can be amazing for nature lovers. This package costs just $119/night and comes with the option of adding additional nights for $50 each. The promo code for this package is LQSTORM10.

So whether you want to experience the power of El Niña on the Pacific Coast or the storms she generates in the rainforest, Olympic National Park has you covered.

Live out your Twilight fantasies at Olympic National Park

The next installment of the Twilight saga is now just a few days away, and fans are already preparing to catch the latest exploits of those kooky vampires and werewolves on the big screen. To celebrate, the release of Eclipse, the Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park is offering special deals for visitors who want to follow in Edward and Bella’s footsteps, while having a few adventures of their own.

The Twilight Eclipse Package includes one night stay at the lodge with guests staying in a double occupancy log cabin. Visitors will also receive two Twilight water bottles, a Twilight trivia game, and a specially themed Twilight dessert. The package also includes a special map of the Forks area as well, with some of the most important locations from the books highlighted, allowing fans to quickly find and visit the places they’ve only read about in the novels. Some of those places include La Push, home of the Quileute Tribe as well as Bella’s best friend Jacob, the Forks High School and Community Hospital, not to mention the lush forests and Pacific beaches that play a role in the story as well.

This package deal starts at $202 is good through October 30th. When booking online, use promo code: KLTWEC10 and start planning your vampire, or werewolf, hunting expedition soon.

[Photo credit: Summit Entertainment]

It’s the last dam summer at Olympic National Park

There are big changes in store for Olympic National Park, which is located in the Olympic Peninnorthwest corner of Washington state on the Olympic Peninsula. The park is an interesting combination of Pacific Coast beaches, lush rain forests, and snow capped mountains, with some of the best scenery in the Pacific Northwest. But part of the landscape there is changing dramatically, and by next year it will be altered forever.

In 2011, as part of a plan to remove the Elhwa River Dam, Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell will both be drained, allowing the river to flow freely once again. This is a wonderful ecological move, as it will open up more than 70 miles worth of waterways to let the native salmon swim free, but it will also have an impact on the paddlers who have enjoy kayaking and canoeing through the Elhwa Valley. By next summer, that will no longer be an option.

To celebrate this historic event, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Lake Crescent Lodge are offering the Last Dam Summer Package, which ranges in price from $206-$229, and includes lodging, a box lunch for each person for each day of your stay, water bottles, a waterfall trail map, and informational material about the impact of the dam removal. To book the package, simply use the promo code: OLYLDS10 when booking your stay.

As if getting the opportunity to paddle two lakes that won’t exist next year wasn’t enough of an incentive to visit Olympic, there is also a new trail to explore as well. The recently established Olympic Waterfalls Trail is sure to be a hit with visitors who want to explore all the stunning waterfalls that the park is famous for. The new trail offers a variety of ways to access these natural wonders, including paved, wheelchair accessible trails, scenic forest roads, and traditional hiking trails. Several of the falls can only be reached by kayak or boat as well, which adds even more of an adventurous element to the trip.

To take advantage of the new trail, four of the park’s lodges, which include Lake Quinault Lodge and Kalaloch Lodge, in addition to the two mentioned above, are offering the Olympic Waterfall Trail Package. This option includes all of the same amenities, at the same rates, as the Last Dam Summer Package, but allows visitors to coordinate a multi-night stay across multiple lodges that fall along their route. To take advantage of this deal, use promo code: OLYWFT10.

Both of these deals are good through October 30th. For more information check out

[Photo credit: National Park Service]

Select national park resorts offer deals on lodging and tours for National Parks Week

National Parks Week is set to take place from April 17 through the 25, and to celebrate, Aramark, an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service, has announced several great deals on lodging, tours, and retail items.

Several of the lodges that fall under Aramark management are offering two-for-one deals. For example, the visitors to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia can book a nights stay at Skyland Resort for $125 and receive the next nights stay absolutely free. The offer runs from April 18-29, with the deal extending to consecutive nights only. Similarly, visitors to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado can stay for $99 on their first night, and get their second consecutive night free as well. This offer is good from April 22-30.

Visitors to Olympic National Park have multiple choices in their place to stay, with three lodges running specials Book an evening in the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Kalaloch Lodge or Lake Crescent Lodge for $157 and you’ll receive the second night free. The offer is good in the first two resorts from April 17-25, and in the Lake Crescent Lodge from May 7-31, but must be booked by April 25.

Finally, visitors to the Yellowstone National Park can stay in the Togwotee Mountain Lodge, located 44 miles from the South Entrance, for just $99 for the first night, and receive the second consecutive night free. The booking must be made by April 25, but is valid for stays between May 21 and June 28.

For more great deals from Aramark, including special pricing on tours, t-shirts and more, click here. Most of the special offers are good through National Park Week, when entry to every park in the system will also be free.