New bridges open floodplain for salmon in Dungeness River

Nature Center

After years of being pinched with railroad bridges, trestles and dikes, an oft-visited section of the Dungeness River finally will have room to flow.

Logs were installed in the river to boost habitat for salmon in the newly restored floodplain. Photo: Tiffany Royal

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe restored the historical 1,000-foot-wide floodplain of the river this summer at the intersection of the Olympic Discovery Trail and the newly expanded Dungeness River Nature Center. The project will lead to better habitat for salmon and more room for the river to move, while improving community enjoyment.

For decades, this section of river was constrained by a dike while also navigating around trestles, pilings and a bridge that supported a railroad through this area in the early 1900s. In addition, the railroad bridge was constructed with an opening of only 150 feet for the river to flow through, while the historical floodplain was much wider.

“So, you’re asking a river in a historically 1,000-foot-wide floodplain to go through a 150-foot-wide opening,” said Randy Johnson, the tribe’s habitat program manager. “With this project, we’re opening up the rest of the floodplain.”

The floodplain was expanded to its historical width, with two bridges installed over it—one span ends at the nature center and the other is an “express lane” that allows users of the Olympic Discovery Trail to bypass the nature center and stay on the trail. In addition, the dike was removed and engineered logjams were installed to create more salmon habitat.

This work builds on other restoration efforts the tribe has completed in this section of the river. In 2015, old railroad trestles and creosote pilings west of the railroad bridge were replaced with a steel span, allowing the river to flow more easily, especially during turbulent times. In 2007, engineered logjams were installed upstream of the bridge to improve the salmon habitat.

Above: New bridges were constructed this summer to accommodate the expansion of the Dungeness River to its historical floodplain width. One bridge leads to the Dungeness River Nature Center while the other continues the Olympic Discovery Trail. Photo: Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. Story: Tiffany Royal.