Washington’s Elwha River carves freely through the exposed reservoir upstream of the former Elwha Dam for the first time in over 100 years. Photo by Travis Rummel



Thanks to a bit of inspiration from author Steven Hawley, we paid our respects to Idaho’s Sunbeam Dam on the Salmon River. Constructed in 1910 to provide power to a near-by mining operation, little thought was given to the fact that it blocked fish passage—most importantly to the Idaho sockeye. Today, about two thirds of the original structure remains—but the details of how it was breached in 1934 are surprisingly foggy. Idaho Fish and Game supposedly had a line item on the budget for demolition of the dam in 1930, but Hawley says it went unpaid. What’s left of the Sunbeam tombstone may be our earliest example of river restoration done right: blow the son-of-a-bitch up, and the river will take care of the rest.

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