Elwha River Paddle
The Paddle Trails Canoe Club is a paddle group based in Seattle. Whereas most paddle groups in this area are
kayakers, this group is heavy into canoes. Because of the distance, we have not been able to join many of their
paddles. However, I was excited when Pat Maxwell sent out an e-mail saying he would lead a trip on the Elwha River this
weekend--from Lake Aldwell to the Strait. Only 4.5 miles, so it promised to be a short fun trip. I also relished in the idea
that I would see a part of the Peninsula that few people here get to see. Pat had not done this trip in years, but with low
water in the Cascades, he was interested in exploring this river again. Little did we know that by the end of the day he
would swear that this was a trip he would never do again.
The PTCC is one of the friendliest most fun loving and safety conscious groups we have had the pleasure of paddling
with. 14 paddlers met at Lairds corner at 10:30 a.m and set off for the launch. The launch required carrying canoes
across the dam and then down a very steep path beside the spillway. At least gravity did much of the work.
By the time we completed the shuttle, the actual launch did not begin until noon. But with only 4.5 miles, it seemed like
we should be to the Strait in no time with Pat and Oliver (below) to lead us on our way.
It was a spectacular day, one of the warmest of the year. Jackie and I did try to lend some excitement by turning over in
the very first rapid. The river was pristine with not a single house or structure on the river and we stopped for a very
pleasant lunch on the river. Hell had not yet begun.
It was after lunch that the trouble began. There were massive log jams across the river.
For the next couple hours we pulled our canoes up and under
log jams sometimes wading in chest deep water. At one point the
jams were so massive that someone found a fishermen's path
where we pulled our canoes through the woods. We felt fortunate
to know that we still had the long days of summer to give us time
to complete this short 4.5 mile paddle!
Eventually we rounded a high cliff to see the Strait of Juan de Fuca in all its glory with the mountains of Vancouver
Island on the horizon. It was 5:30 p.m. We had paddled less than a mile an hour to get to the strait!
Jackie and I pulled to shore. But several in the group had not had enough adventure. Morgan and Mimi paddled out into
the surf and frolicked around until they finally managed to flip their canoe. Jim and Helen, having turned over and
righted themselves in their float canoe, came to the rescue.
The trip ended with most of the group coming to our house for
dinner and nine camping at our place and staying for dinner.
Jackie fixed ham, salad, and potatoes, and the rest brought all
the right contributions to make it a very nice meal. It was a trip
we will always remember and it will grow better with time. We
appreciate all the suggestions and instructions we got from
our much more seasoned companions.
Jackie and I only managed to turn over once but
not for lack of trying as evidenced by the picture
on the right taken by Pat.