Tuesday, August 28, 2012

From Yakima to Grand Coulee, WA

From Yakima, WA, we started north on Yakima Canyon Road (Route 821), which used to be the only way to get from Yakima to Seattle. We saw pretty cliffs on one side and the Yakima River on the other. We also saw a lot of good farm land; in fact, Grant County, WA, claims to be the largest potato-producing county in the country. 

We stayed two nights at Steamboat Rock State Park just a dozen miles south of Grand Coulee Dam.  The first night we went through the dam visitor’s center and saw a laser light show where colorful images created by lasers move back and forth on  a “screen” created by the spillway's water. When we first got to the dam, only a few small streams of water were visible on the spillway. About ten minutes before the show started, wide streams started coming down until the entire spillway surface was covered. You could hear the water being released before you could actually see it.

The 35-minute light show told the story of the Columbia as narrated by the Columbia River itself.   Apparently the Columbia River is a guy, likes Neil Diamond (the show ended with Diamond's “Coming to America"), regrets flooding 12 towns and ending salmon fishing as a way of life for nearby Indian tribes, and is proud of the jobs created plus the fact that the Grand Coulee helps irrigate 600,000 acres of rich farmland. As today’s special effects go, the laser show was tame. But it’s still amazing to see a light show on a huge screen of water and hear/see the story of Grand Coulee Dam from the viewpoint of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Dam facts:

Grand Coulee Dam is the largest hydropower producer in the US.

It was constructed from 1931 to 1941and officially began operating in 1942.

The dam played a critical role in providing power for US efforts in World War II.

It generates enough electricity to supply 2.3 million households with electricity each year and provides power to 11 western states (including Utah).

The amount of concrete it took to build the dam could build a 12-foot wide sidewalk around the equator.

The dam was originally proposed for irrigation and flood control.  Today, however, one of its most important jobs is the production of hydroelectricity.

A statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake near the Visitor's
Center and the namesake lake created when Grand Coulee
Dam backed up the Columbia River.  Lake Roosevelt
stretches 151 miles from the dam to Canada.

My camera did very poor justice to the Grand Coulee
Dam light show, which runs every night from the
end of May through the end of September. 
Steamboat Rock, a basalt formation rising 800 feet
above Banks Lake, dominates the view at Steamboat
Rock State Park.  This photo was taken from near our 
camping spot.  We tried to take a hike to the top, but 
when you had to use your hands and your feet it became 
too hard for Bev (bad hands) and Cooper (no hands).
The view from Steamboat Rock toward the campground
and Banks Lake.
These deer watched us -- and then followed us a bit -- as
we hiked away from Steamboat Rock.

Our rig and tow car at Washington's Steamboat Rock State Park.  Our campsite was on a small rise looking down on other parts of the camp ground and Banks  Lake, a second reservoir created by Grand Coulee Dam.

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