Dam! It’s not quite My Town Monday

DSCN1784  Welcome to Coulee Dam

Some wonderful friends from the other side of the state made a weekend jaunt to the dry side to explore their old college town and spend the night with us. A late dinner on the patio, fresh blueberry cobbler by candlelight, and three rousing rounds of Pitch (love that card game),  a good night of sleep, and a beautiful morning might have made us a little giddy. Over coffee and a healthy breakfast we made the highly unusual choice to skip church and caravan through the wheat fields and scrubland to the place that my sister-from-another-mister hadn’t been to in 45 years.

Grand Coulee Dam -- so big that you could fit Hoover Dam in the spillway area on the right side of this picture and still have an additional 400 feet of space!

Grand Coulee Dam — so big that you could fit Hoover Dam in the spillway area on the right side of this picture and still have an additional 400 feet of space!

At night there is a laser light show on the spillway. We couldn’t stay long enough for that this time, although SuperDad and I have camped here in the past and enjoyed it.

Some of the turbines inside the dam itself

Some of the turbines inside the dam itself

The view from the top of the dam, clockwise from top left:  looking down at the base of the dam, looking back at Lake Roosevelt behind the dam, looking up at the big pipes that carry water to Banks Lake, looking straight down the spillway

The view from the top of the dam, clockwise from top left: looking down at the base of the dam, looking back at Lake Roosevelt behind the dam, looking up at the big pipes that carry water to Banks Lake, looking straight down the spillway

Those pipes that carry water to Banks Lake are large enough to drive a tour bus through!

Because the many dams on the mighty Columbia River provide hydroelectric power, it is easy to forget that this dam’s stated main purpose in being built was for irrigation.  The original idea behind the building of Grand Coulee Dam was to provide irrigation for desert land that was wonderfully fertile but much too dry to produce crops.  I imagine most of you think of rainy Seattle when you think of Washington State, but this particular section of the state gets 6-9 inches of rain on an annual basis. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land now produce crops from A-to-Z (asparagus to zucchini) because of this project for the Bureau of Land Reclamation.*  The manpower to build this dam was provided by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), part of the New Deal to bring America out of the Great Depression.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt was criticized for spending money on the dam and Congress fussed about the additional money needed to complete it.  Then we joined World War II, and suddenly the many detractors who had been unhappy about spending the money in building this [which for many years was the world’s biggest] dam were happy to have a ready supply of power for the war effort. Think Boeing. Think Manhattan Project.

*It wasn’t until several years after the end of WWII that the irrigation project was completed, but if you travel through Eastern Washington, you will pass orchards, vineyards, and fields filled with wheat, corn, hops, alfalfa, and potatoes — just to name a few.  In fact, Grant County grows more potatoes than any other place in all of the United States; take that, Idaho!

DSCN1809  wheat fields

fields of wheat in WA

Grand Coulee Dam is not part of my town; in fact, it is a two-hour drive away! However, it is an important landmark for this region. 

And it was important for me to spend a little extra time with my sister-from-another-mister! 🙂

DSCN0070

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8 thoughts on “Dam! It’s not quite My Town Monday

    • What I didn’t fit into the photo of the dam was that there is a matching power plant on the right-hand side of the spillway and a third (and more powerful) power plant on the far left. This place is so huge that you have to see it to believe it.

  1. We have explored the Grand Coule Dam and Soap Lake area two summers in a row. We loved it there too and I just loved the different land formations. It is so arid there. While we were there last year it was about 104 for a week. Now that is hot! Last summer they had the unusual rains for about three nights as well. Was quite the contrast. Glad you had a nice time. Did you get to visit Dry Falls as well?

    • It is nice that you have been there at some time. But it is really hot there that is for sure. When we went there it was in July so maybe the yellow jackets weren’t so bad back then.

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