Tuesday July 10. This morning we left the Seattle area and headed east. Our destination for today was The Kings court campground in the town of Grand Coulee. This is really small town but after driving up and down the streets we couldn’t find it, the GPS couldn’t find it either. But coming into town we rode by a campground on the waterfront of Lake Baker and I noticed it had some nice waterfront sites available. We secured a spot there and after settling in we went to the dam and took the tour.
They take up to 40 visitors at a time into the generator/pump room of one of the generating plants. There are three generating plants at Coulee; all three together can generate almost 7 million Megawatts of electricity. After the plant tour they take you by bus out onto the dam, 500 feet above the river bed you can look over the edge and watch 300,000 gallons per minute of Columbia River water rush under your feet and over the spillway. At the source of all this water; the Canadian Rockies, the snow melt is peaking, a week ago it was 900,000 gallons per minute over the spillway.
Construction of this massive structure started in 1933 and was completed in 1941. It is 550 feet high, 5,223 feet wide and contains 12 million cubic yards of concrete. In comparison the Hoover Dam (1931-36) is 726 feet high, 1244 feet wide and contains 3 and ¼ million cubic yards of concrete.
Besides being amazed at the enormity of the Grand Coulee, we also learned a very interesting fact about the dam. Generating electricity is not its primary function, most of its huge generators are reversible and instead of water gravity flowing thru it to generate electricity, they act as giant pumps. They pump water 280 feet above the dam to a 27 mile long reservoir. From here the water is used to irrigate more than ½ million acres of farm land.
I’ve been to and taken the tour of the Hoover Dam and I now have to wonder why the Hoover gets all the fame. I think it just looks colossal because of its arched shape and it’s wedged in appearance in the narrow canyon.
We went back to the dam at 10 pm tonight and watched a laser light show that was projected onto the face of the dam. It told the story of the Columbia River, its wild history and its eventual taming. It ran about 40 minutes, and was pretty neat. Add the Grand Coulee to your bucket list, its well worth the trip.