Gabriela Contreras's picture
2018 Alcoa Scholars go to Olympic National Park
Gabriela Contreras
August 6, 2018 - 12:06pm
Each year, our two groups of Alcoa Scholars from all over the world have the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful public lands in the U.S. 
Typically, our Scholars go to Shenandoah National Park and Yosemite National Park, discovering the landscapes of each respective park over the summer.
This year, however, there has been a change of plans for our second group of Scholars. Yosemite National Park is located in the heart of California, and unfortunately, extreme heat and high wind conditions in this state create the perfect storm for wildfires.
Worsening air quality conditions in Yosemite related to the nearby Ferguson Fire have led us to open the doors for our Alcoa Scholars in Olympic National Park.
Located in Washington state on the Northwest coast, Olympic National Park encompasses nearly a million acres, protects a vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline.
Our campus is located on the edge of Lake Crescent, a beautiful body of water that is home to rich history and legends. Students learn and stay in historic cabins, immersed in the hundred-year culture of what was once the Rosemary Inn (which housed prominent figures in its day such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt!).
Students engage in strenuous hikes deep in the forest to Mt. Storm King and go canoeing on the Lake, learning more about endemic species as well as the lake’s dark history.
Olympic National Park is also home to the largest watershed restoration project in U.S. history. The Elwha River dams were constructed in the early 1900s, and for over a century disrupted the web of ecological and cultural connections in the Elwha Valley.
In 1992, Congress passed legislation to remove the dams and restore the altered ecosystem. Since removal of the dams in 2014, there has been a revival of a slowly recovering river. The river is now the site of a fascinating story of rebirth and is still in process of growth and improvement.
This week, our Scholars will be able to explore all of these amazing places firsthand. Stay tuned for more from our class of 2018 Olympic Alcoa Scholars!