The town of
Here (photo right) on the downstream side
of the dam is the left power station (which by the uninitiated could be
mistaken for the right power station!). To get some perspective on
the size of the dam, consider that the power station is a six-story
building. Note also the "tiny" cars. To the right of
the power station, you can also see the pipes that deliver water up over
the canyon wall into a feeder canal, and then into Banks Lake
Dam, one of the largest concrete structures in the world, is an awesome
sight. After decades of planning, it was built over an 8-year
period, starting in 1933, as a depression relief project.
Grand Coulee is a hydroelectric
dam, and part of the Columbia River Hydro System, a series of 14 dams
harnessing the energy of the mighty Columbia River. Interestingly, the
System is an example of the close ties between Canada
and the US in this Pacific Northwest region, as it includes 3 dams
above the border. Grand Coulee Dam is the largest U.S. producer of hydro-electric
energy, generating 6,800 of the 35,000 megawatts of electricity generated by the
System. That translates to about $500 million worth of power that
is supplied to British Columbia and hundreds of towns and cities in the western states.
Grand Coulee Dam also provides
water that irrigates over 500,000 acres of eastern Washington, and without which much of
the farming you see would not be possible. In addition to Franklin D
Roosevelt Lake, water is actually pumped
out of the dam to create Banks Lake above which functions as a stabilizing
reservoir and also stores irrigation water. This was quite a
controversial design decision at the time, and took advantage of an
existing containment area in the form of the upper Grand Coulee Canyon.
A good place to view the dam, (as
well as the town and its monumental sand pile) is from "Crown Point" lookout, about two miles west out of Coulee Dam, just off
WA-174. The lookout can be spotted from the town below. In
terms of photo opportunities, the evening sun shows off the downstream
side to its best advantage, while the morning sun bathes the upstream
In the open desert landscape of
low rolling hills it can be hard to gain a perspective of just how large
this structure is. One exercise is to look at the town, then look at
the dam... the dam is a lot bigger!
The dam has its own
Visitor Arrival Center overlooking the downstream dam wall. In
summer there are tours of parts of the dam including a ride down the face
of the dam in a glass-enclosed elevator, designed to access the
powerhouses. You can make a picnic dinner of the evening laser light
shows projected onto the dam wall. The are free, run for 36 minutes,
and include music and narration.
The town and road map of
Northeast Washington will help you locate cities, towns and other attractions.
Best selection of books on the
by Don Pitcher
June 2002, 7th edition, Paperback,
1000 pages, (guidebook)
In-depth coverage of the history,
landscape, and changes in a state that has come of age. Ranges from
Olympic Peninsula's lush rainforests and long sandy beaches, to
glacier-clad Cascade summits, friendly eastern towns and wineries, the
tranquil Puget Sound, Seattle, and the San Juan Islands.
from . . .
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