Built in 1926, the 3-span, 388-foot concrete arch bridge has served the community for more nearly 100 years. Over the last several years, the Elwha River has dramatically changed its course and flow, leading to significant erosion around the bridge foundations. As a result, WSDOT estimates the riverbed around the bridge’s piers has lowered 14 feet.
The lowered riverbed revealed the piers’ seals, prompting WSDOT to do borings to verify the depth of the foundations. The borings, done in October 2016, revealed the foundations are on gravel, not bedrock. This finding was in contrast to what the original 1926 engineering plans showed. As a result, WSDOT immediately installed almost 5,000 tons of riprap (large boulders) around both piers to help prevent further erosion. Additional bridge monitoring using tilt meters, crack meters, water flow meters, surveys and visual observations are underway until the bridge can be replaced.
Historical timeline of events
- 1913 - Elwha Dam was built
- 1926 - The US 101 Elwha River Bridge was built
- 1927 - Glines Canyon Dam was built
- 1954 - US 101 Elwha River Bridge was widened from a 20-foot bridge to 28 feet
- 2012 - Elwha Dam was removed
- 2014 - Glines Canyon Dam was removed
WSDOT remains committed in continuing to work with local and regulatory partners in this project including Federal Highway Administration, Department of Interior, Olympic National Park, Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Department of Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Corps of Engineers and area jurisdictions.
Additional project benefits include
- Transit stops on both the west and east ends of the bridge, locations of which were coordinated with Clallam Transit;
- Relocating the intersection further east to provide better sight lines and intersection geometrics;
- Installing illumination at the intersection (no illumination is there presently);
- Building turn pockets on US 101 to Olympic Hot Springs Road;
- Building a short acceleration lane on northbound US 101 from Olympic Hot Springs Road;
- Restore the parking access that was there before with a gravel parking lot.
Elwha River Bridge public outreach
From 2016 to 2018, WSDOT staff held six public meetings with various stakeholder groups:
- Forks Business and Professional Association | Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018
- Forks Chamber of Commerce | Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018
- Port Angeles City Council Chambers | Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018
- Port Angeles City Council Chambers | Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017
- Rainforest Arts Center, Forks | Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017
- Vern Burton Center, Port Angeles | Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016
The Federal Highway Administration and Olympic National Park issued a joint Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and Errata for US 101 Elwha River Bridge Replacement on November 22, 2021.
WSDOT and the Federal Highway Administration published the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the US 101 Elwha River Bridge Replacement Project on July 19, 2021. The comment period ended on August 18, 2021.
View historical bridge photos and proposed design visuals in an archived photo album.
Learn how the bridge changed course and flow over the years, and what construction may look like in this video.
WSDOT is replacing an outdated culvert at Indian Creek, west of the Elwha River Bridge. Travelers should plan ahead and expect brief delays.