North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center
(360) 565-1533

Natural Resources

North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center

Final Products

Google Map Landscape Change

Have you ever thought it would be interesting to look back in time? Well it’s not too hard to accomplish. All you need is Google Earth.

Our group set out on a mission: to find out how and where the removal of the Elwha dams physically affected the river. Using Google Earth, we mapped out six different locations along the Elwha River. Each point showed immediately visible changes between 2009 and 2012 (before and during the dam removal process). These locations showed differences in the stream pattern before and after the dams were removed.


We found six different locations along the Elwha that showed major physical change since the decline of the water level after the removal of the dams. Lake Mills, for example is almost completely drained, and is now just a large, dry basin with the Elwha running through the very bottom.

The level of the water, however, is not the only change that was a result in the removal of the dams. The mouth of the Elwha, where the river dumps out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is one location where some changes can be seen due to the sediment that has been picked up and brought down by the river currents. Before the change in the water level, the sediment was building up at the bottom of the reservoirs. But now, sediment in the basins is exposed, leaving some sediment build-up at the banks of the river, turning the water a mucky, opaque shade of grey. Temporarily, this is bad news for most life in the Elwha River, because the water is contaminated with this grey sediment, which makes it difficult for fish and other life forms to survive in the river. But as the sediment is moved into the Strait, the clarity of the water will improve.

In the end, the Elwha River was affected by the removal of the dams in multiple locations. The water level behind the dams decreased, causing reservoirs such as Lake Mills to drain, and turn into large, dry canyons. Also, the sediment that was once sitting at the bottom of the lakes is now being carried down by the currents, and building up in the lower areas.

Throughout the project, we enjoyed finding the six locations on Google Earth, hiking out to each point, taking pictures, and learning about the effects and consequences from the removal of the dams.

© 2015 North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center
905 West 9th Street
Port Angeles, WA 98363
(360) 565-1533