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Dungeness-Elwha Watershed

Location of the Dungeness-Elwha Watershed in Washington State.  Map courtesy of the EPA.The Dungeness watershed is located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Despite being within a coastal region, agriculture here requires irrigation. The 31.9 mile-long Dungeness River drains 270 square miles, meeting the Strait of Juan de Fuca after it drops from the mountains and joins the Gray Wolf River. While the high peaks of the Olympics are steep and jagged, the foothills are smoother due to glacial activity, and the middle and lower watershed are flat and broad.

Sediments deposited in Dungeness Bay have formed the Dungeness Spit, which curves 5.5 miles into the bay. It is the longest natural sand spit in the United States. The Dungeness river mouth has migrated over time, which is common with braided streams, and the channels often shift during floods. Lower flows occur in late summer and fall, with high flows peaking in December and June. Relatively little water is stored in the upper watershed and precipitation is the primary water supply, causing high flow variability.

EPA watershed profile:

Related WRIA: 18

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Dungeness-Quilcene Watershed Water Resources Management Plan


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Book cover for "Elwha: A River Reborn" by Lynda Mapes

The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound spoke with Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes about the exhibit Elwha: A River Reborn, which opened at the University of Washington Burke Museum on November 23rd. The exhibit is based on the book of the same title by Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman, and tells the story of the largest dam removal in U.S. history.  

Water quantity , Species and food webs , Fishes , Nearshore habitat , Freshwater habitat , Terrestrial habitat , Dungeness-Elwha Watershed
Photograph of sediment-covered rocks in the lower Elwha River just upstream of the river mouth at the Strait of Juan de Fuca (June 20, 2012, Chris Magirl).

This document was prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service. Download the entire report, or read the Introduction below. Portions of this document were originally published in June 2013 and were updated in February 2014. 

Water quantity , Water quality , Fishes , Freshwater habitat , Clallam County, Dungeness-Elwha Watershed

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe lives on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula, west of Port Angeles, in the lower Elwha River valley. The land was proclaimed the Lower Elwha Reservation in 1968, and the current tribal lands include approximately a thousand acres. Currently, the tribe has 985 enrolled members, with 395 living on the reservation.

Lower Elwha Klallam Area of Concern:

Dungeness-Elwha Watershed

The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe is one of several communities originating from the S’Klallam tribe (“strong people”), a cultural and linguistic group in the Salish Sea. The S’Klallam signed the treaty of Point No Point in 1855, which entitled them to a payment of $60,000 over 20 years and fishing rights at the “usual and accustomed places.” In 1874, a band of S’Klallams paid $500 for a 210-acre piece of land near Dungeness, which became the Jamestown community.

The Jamestown S’Klallams resisted moving to another reservation, at a price – the federal government ceased to recognize the tribe in 1953. After a long struggle, the tribe succeeded in gaining recognition again in 1981. Since 1988, the tribe has been part of a national Self-Governance Demonstration Project.

Dungeness-Elwha Watershed