The White Salmon River continues a steady recovery since the removal of Condit Dam, but uncertainties linger for some stakeholders through the river’s healing process.
Constrained for a century by the 125-foot PacifiCorp hydroelectric dam, the White Salmon was freed on Oct. 26, 2011, when contractors detonated charges opening a tunnel through the base of the dam, draining Northwestern Lake and sending millions of gallons of water and an estimated 2.3 million cubic yards of sediment thundering downriver.
Five years later, the dam and reservoir are only a memory, though the side effects of the massive stream restoration project has troubled cabin owners living along the river. At the same time, fish returns meet and sometimes defy expectations, and boaters and outfitters are taking advantage of new opportunities in previously inaccessible stretches of river.
As the White Salmon continues to heal, they’re all looking to a new legacy on a new waterway.
‘A rough five years’
The last piece of Condit Dam was removed in September 2012, and the White Salmon now runs across bedrock through what once was the bottom of Northwestern Lake, but evidence of the reservoir remains. A horizontal stripe runs the canyon walls like a bathtub ring.