Isn’t it Grand? 75-year-old dam remains popular draw
Helping turn on laptops in almost a dozen states plus Canada, is a massive structure located in a tiny spot on the Washington map.
Grand Coulee Dam, begun in 1933 and completed in 1942, is responsible not just for that impressive feat, but for a handful of folk songs and a million awestruck stares from visitors of all ages.
“They are impressed by it, it’s very big,” said Lynn Brougher, public information officer at the dam. “When they go inside on a tour and see the big equipment, it’s very impressive.”
And that’s even before the laser light show begins.
The laser light show happens every night from Memorial Day to Sept. 30, and it serves as a capper for tourists visiting the dam. Both the light show and the tours of the dam itself are free of charge, Brougher said.
During the summer, the dam has extended hours and its visitor center offers eight tours a day, on a first-come, first-served basis, she added.
The visitor center at the dam is open 362 days a year, with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day being the only exceptions.
Another big tourist draw is the lake that forms from the dam backing up the Columbia River. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake, popularly known as Lake Roosevelt, stretches almost all the way to the Canadian border, and has proven a tourist magnet for those wanting a spot to cool off or go camping.
“It’s Washington’s largest lake,” Brougher said. “Folks come up and recreate on the lake, there are numerous campgrounds and boat launches.”
Water from Lake Roosevelt, named after the president who championed the construction of the dam, is pumped up from the dam and into Banks Lake, and is used to irrigate the Columbia Basin, Brougher said.
The dam, three times the size of its counterpart in Nevada, Hoover Dam, could be a little harder to find at first, given the names of the towns that surround it: Coulee City, Coulee Dam, Grand Coulee and Electric City.
Coulee City is not near the dam, but 27 miles south of it. Grand Coulee sits above the dam and Coulee Dam sits below the dam. In addition, there’s Electric City and Elmer City making up the Grant Coulee Area, Brougher said.
“It gets a litte confusing,” she said.
Nevertheless, the dam pulls in upwards of a quarter-million visitors each year, Brougher said, with the lake pulling in more than one million visitors a year, and the towns nearby drawing visitors to places like tribal museums.
Tuesdays through Thursdays at the visitor center get less crowded than the weekends, she said. A good time to arrive is around 7 p.m. if you want to check out the laser light show.
By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org