Condit Dam Removal Complete!

Barely a year after the breach of Condit Dam, all of the concrete has been removed and the White Salmon flows freely.  By all counts the dam removal has been a success–salmon have returned and spawned above the site, rafters and kayakers are regularly paddling the river, and the whole effort happened without major incident.  A huge congratulations to the contractor, JR Merit, is certainly in order.  Nicely done!


The most striking thing about the Condit Dam site today is the lack of evidence that the dam was ever there.  It’s almost disorienting–the dam and its related infrastructure was a fixture of the landscape for as long as anyone can remember.  When I walk around the site today I almost find myself getting lost.  It’s weird and really fantastic.

Through the Notch

While paddling through the site of the former dam is certainly an incredible experience, it’s really the salmon recovery that makes the dam removal truly exciting.  When I pressed most biologists to predict when salmon might return to spawn, I usually got a conservative 3-4 year estimate.  But salmon had already started spawning above and below the former dam site before crews had even finished removing the last of the concrete.  The lower river sufficiently recovered from the sediment bomb of breach day for salmon to spawn downstream and upstream habitat remained in great shape.  The biggest thing we’ve learned from this process?  If we get out of the way and let nature do it’s thing, recovery will happen incredibly quickly.  But, hey, don’t take my word for it.  Ask this guy…


So what happens next?  Crews still need to finish wrestling with the log jam in the Narrows and tree planting will happen in the former reservoir area.  There’s lots on monitoring left to do and lose ends to tie up, but this dam removal’s just about wrapped!

Now, I know what you’re wondering.  Yes, we have the complete timelapse footage of the dam removal processed and ready to go.  And no, you can’t see it.  Yet.  (Sorry!)  I’m producing a special for PBS about Condit and the timelapse footage will premiere with the show sometime this spring.  Once it has aired, we’ll put both the complete show and the timelapase footage here on the site.  In the meantime, just keep rewatching the footage from breach day…

Stay tuned–more updates to come!

14 thoughts on “Condit Dam Removal Complete!

  1. WoW! Eagerly anticipating the PBS special, I’m sure you’ll keep us updated on the air date/title! This has been a fascinating project to follow for the last year. I was fortunate enough to come across your blog about a week before the breach and have been watching ever since. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  2. Andy, thanks for the update; it’s much appreciated. Your photos give the viewer a real feel for how one could be easily disoriented. The finished “product” looks great; kudos to Merit. Look forward to seeing the complete show on PBS.

  3. I live in Hood River so we have been over to see the recovery and love the salmon returning to their home. I was curious to know how the residents of that area feel as some homes are on the edge of the White Salmon/Condit Dam. Will you touch on the impact to them it would seem to me a good thing to include them as that is their home and we are all a part of nature whether it is good or bad.

  4. Such a tragedy that this removal has created in me that I will forever take to my grave the disappointment these people have brought upon me….

  5. Thanks for the window into this exciting project! What dam is next? Everyone should view the Restore Hetch Hetchy website and get behind this ultimate dam removal. Imagine restoring the twin to Yosemite Valley! It is possible with public support from across the nation to break the San Francisco stranglehold on this dirty little secret.

  6. Most excellent Andy! Can’t wait to see the special. Please keep us informed of air times. We’re very proud of all your work.My vote for the next project would be Glen Canyon…..

  7. Thank you for your coverage of this incredible event. I noticed that Powerhouse Road is open again so it’s possible to drive down and see the site for oneself for the first time since August 2011. Truely incredible job.

    Don Morby: I’m saddened to see such a fine engineering structure go away too – the dam was a terrific feat. But just as I don’t use a 20 year old computer, a 50 year old TV or an 80 year old car, we don’t need the puny electrical output of a 100 year old dam. It never provided flood control or irrigation. And Northwestern Lake was choking in its own alluvia. At least the powerhouse is still there and would make a fine small museum some day. And the beauty of the narrows has to be seen to be believed. Do go – you will be amazed.

    1. Now it has been 3 full years since your 2012 comment on the removal of the northwestern lake dam!, I see a destroyed fishery, no access to the river except to certified rafters, a huge sediment buildup at the mouth, a destroyed access to the in-lieu site at underwood, a huge parking problem on SR14 with the influx of windsurfers using the sediment beach. No wind surfer pays for that parking as the fishermen did through sales of tags and licensing. This was and is a no win situation. On the good side it has created a nice beach area for board heads !!!

  8. Very sad to see. I suppose you like nuclear power and fossil fuel generated power better. Dams like this could have helped save the environment if you didn’t destroy them.

  9. Any updates? Spring has come and gone. I’m eagerly awaing the chance to see the results of your Herculean efforts. Thank you so much for taking on this project!

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