Huge laser show projected on Grand Coulee Dam

laser show
A 300-foot-tall coyote face stares out from the face of Grand Coulee Dam during the laser show, shown nightly in the summer.

The laser light show that explains the history of the area and the dam shows nightly through the season. It’s the largest outdoor show in North America and is something to see, newly updated in 2014.

What time does the laser light show begin?

The laser show is held nightly at Grand Coulee Dam as follows for 2015:

May 23 to July 31 at 10:00 p.m.

Aug. 1 to Aug. 31 at 9:30 p.m.

Sept. 1 to Sept. 30 at 8:30 p.m.

The show is about 28 minutes in length. There is no admission fee. Call 509-633-9265 for more information.

How long is the laser show?

The laser light show lasts approximately 28 minutes, during which time colorful images created by the lasers move back and forth across the huge surface of the dam.

Where can I view the show?

The best locations are the seating area at the Visitor Center and from the park below the Visitor Center. These areas provide an outdoor sound system.

The town of Coulee Dam has a park —  terraced and  grassy for viewing the laser show — adjacent to the east end of the Columbia River bridge.

Other viewing spots: from Douglas Park in Coulee Dam; from Crown Point atop the granite cliffs above Lake Rufus Woods, access from SR174 towards Bridgeport.

The USBR broadcasts the audio portion of the laser light show nightly at 90.1 FM.

What is a laser?

Lasers are intense beams of light commonly used in medicine and science, but they’ve also found a niche as a high-tech, fast-moving form of entertainment. They are controlled by computers which, at Grand Coulee Dam, are in the Visitor Center.

Although a single dot of light, lasers can trace an image so rapidly it appears as a solid figure to the human eye.

The term laser is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It is so commonly used now that the tradition of using capital letters for an acronym has been dropped.

How are the lasers used at Grand Coulee Dam?

As one of the largest entertainment laser projection systems in the world,  and certainly the largest outdoor laser show in North America, the lasers at Grand Coulee Dam tell the story of the Columbia River and how its power was harnessed to provide multiple benefits to mankind, including electrical power, irrigation for farming and exciting recreational opportunities. As a result of the open process of scripting the show new in 2014, viewers will also understand the costs of building the dam — cost to wildlife,  and to native peoples whose way of life was dependent on that wildlife, in particular, the salmon that no longer could continue upstream to spawn.

How much did the lasers cost?

With the original equipment in use since 1989, the Bureau of Reclamation commissioned a new show and new equipment. The equipment began operation in May of 2013, but projecting the new show began in May, 2014. Lumalaser, of Oregon, bid the project at $1.6 million.

How big are the laser images?

Pictures are beamed at the awesome height of nearly 300 feet.

How far do the lasers project?

The laser lights are beamed between 2,000 and 4,000 feet to the surface of the dam.

Check out today’s big bull ride

A cowboy gets bucked off in last year's Cleatis Lacy memorial.
A cowboy gets bucked off in last year’s Cleatis Lacy memorial.

There’s some big bucks to be made today, Saturday, May 23. All you have to do is ride a few bulls.

It’s the Third Annual Cleatis Lacy Memorial Bull Ride at the Ridge Rider rodeo grounds in Delano. Action begins at 3 p.m.

This year, rodeo officials have added $3,000 to the prize money making the bull riding event attractive to some pretty good professional cowboys.

The event is named after Grand Coulee’s own Cleatis Lacy, a rodeo cowboy of the first degree. When he wasn’t competing, Lacy was one of the most popular volunteers, never turning down an opportunity to help out.

This year, rodeo fans will be able to pay tribute to Cleatis and another local cowboy, Bob Rowe, at the site of a memorial marker that has been erected across the arena from the main seating area.

The marker is a metal cutout showing Cleatis as a bulldogger. The companion marker is for Rowe, who had long been one of the cowboys that helped make the rodeo grounds what it is today. The markers are side by side, and a third marker honoring another local cowboy, Bob O’Neal, is being planned.

Glenn Shear designed the markers and then Joe Santistevan put his tool skills to work and created the cutouts.

Rodeo officials have added $1,000 to the purse for the wild horse race, one of the most popular events for the evening, and $100 has been added to the Junior Steer Riding event.

Wild horses, they just don't listen.
Wild horses, they just don’t listen.

Shane Marchand, Sev Carden and Deb Achord have all been active in developing the event.

And, by the way, if you’re into rodeo, this is your lucky day. Because when you get done watching the fun in Grand Coulee, you can head to the Coulee City Last Stand Rodeo about 30 miles at the other end of Banks Lake. Starts at 7 tonight.

It’s Colorama time in the Coulee!

 

Kids loving the Colorado Canival rides make the cover of The Star special section.
Kids loving the Colorado Canival rides make the cover of The Star special section. View the whole publication below.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 50 entries for the annual Colorama Parade, but 10 of those had just come in on Monday, said Peggy Nevsimal, director of the sponsoring Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce.

The parade is the Saturday sendoff to the whole lot of fun activities we call Colorama every May. The festival includes the Run the Dam early Saturday morning, the parade, the button drawing, arts and crafts and stuff in the park, the rodeo, the carnival, and the live entertainment in the beer garden at North Dam Park.

The final parade count will likely be closer to 60-65 entries.

That’s because the parade is one where you’re very likely to see someone you know who is in it to show pride in the community, or to advetise a great cause, or just for fun.

So when someone shows up the morning of the parade with a nice smile and application in hand, parade chair Tammy Norris is likely to say, “Oh, all right! You’re number 65, get in line.”

You can still be part of the big Colorama Parade, May 9.

You might spare some confusion if you stop by the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce office or go online to grandcouleedam.org for your parade entry form if you want be part of the parade and dazzle your family and friends along the parade route.

You’ll see entries in eight different categories: Community entry, Organization/club, Business, School band, Classic car, Hot Rod, Equestrian, and Junior.

The parade begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 9, near the staging area on Spokane Way in front of the former Center Elementary School. The route, about a mile long, takes just over an hour to complete.

The route follows Federal Avenue to Midway Avenue (SR155), takes Midway south to the Four Corners intersection with SR 174.

 

Lake level held down for maintenance on dam

The boat launch at Crescent Bay on Lake Roosevelt is currently high and dry, but Spring Canyon and up to 11 of 22 launches in the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area still reach the water. Spring Canyon, the lowest reaching launch, goes down to elevation 1,222.
The boat launch at Crescent Bay on Lake Roosevelt is currently high and dry, but Spring Canyon and up to 11 of 22 launches in the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area still reach the water. Spring Canyon, the lowest reaching launch, goes down to elevation 1,222.

Lake Roosevelt is being held at a level about 47 feet below the full mark while maintnenace is completed on the drum gates that hold the water back when the lake is full.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Grand Coulee Dam, reports the lake will likely remain below 1,255 feet above sea level until May 10.

The water forecast for the Columbia River drainage above Grand Coulee Dam, from April to August this year, is estimated to 82.5 percent of normal, so the maximum level allowed for flood control right now would actually be 1,283.3 feet, less than 7 feet below spilling over.

But such flood control elevations are the maximum elevations allowed to ensure enough room in the lake for the spring runoff. Actual elevations may be lower “based on power demand, unforeseen power emergencies, changes in weather events, maintenance on the dam, etc,” the bureau explains on its website.

Army Corps to lower water level at Rufus Woods April 11-12

Fishing on Lake Rufus Woods
Anglers ply the waters of Lake Rufus Woods, behind Chief Joseph Dam in this 2010 photo

 

SEATTLE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is lowering the reservoir water level upstream of Chief Joseph Dam by 1.5-2.5 feet below normal pool this weekend, but the Seaton’s Grove boat launch will remain open.

Water managers expect that work scheduled for April 11-12, to prepare for a bank stabilization project, will lower Lake Rufus Woods from its normal low-pool level of 950 feet above sea level to a lower elevation between 947.5-948.5 feet.

The project will eventually address erosion problems by placing bank-stabilizing rock armor and native plantings along 700 feet of shoreline on the Columbia River’s northeastern bank downstream of Seaton’s Grove boat ramp.

To prepare the site for construction, the waterline is being lowered this weekend for an inspection of conditions, and to remove vegetation and other obstructions that could impact bank protection integrity.

Water levels are expected to return to normal April 13.

A Corps spokesman said he didn’t know when the actual construction work would take place or how long it would take.

When complete, the structure will provide protection against reservoir erosive forces, the Corps stated in a press release Friday.

The Corps said that throughout the planning process it coordinated with the Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Reclamation, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington Department of Ecology, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

What a view!

A lucky dog sniffs a great view. Ed Grenier (@roscoejefferson) photo
A lucky dog sniffs a great view. Ed Grenier (@roscoejefferson) photo

Here’s another fine use of Instagram: highlighting the great hikes the Grand Coulee Dam area offers. This shot is of a very happy dog on top of Steamboat Rock, out in the midst of Banks Lake at the Steamboat Rock State Park. It’s a hunk of earth that didn’t wash away in the series of catastrophic floods that carved the Grand Coulee at the end the last ice age.

So standing atop the rock, about 800 feet above the floor of the Grand Coulee, you can imagine the torrents that flowed through the area thousands of years ago, leaving this dramatic landscape.

The dog may not get that, but he certainly enjoys it anyway.

You might fish for salmon here someday, not just silvers

Between a renewed push for re-introducing salmon to the Columbia River above Grand Coulee Dam and a newly developing technology, a consortium of tribes is hopeful that somehow, there will be a way to bring salmon back.

The icon of the Pacific Northwest has been gone from the upper reaches of the Columbia since the building of Grand Coulee Dam. Now they’re actually stopped at Chief Joseph Dam, more than 50 miles downriver.

But a treaty may open for negotiations between the United States and Canada that dictates exchanges of water and electricity and infrastructure provided. And the Upper Columbia United Tribes is hopeful, along with the Colville Confederated Tribes, that a way for cheap transport may have been discovered by company touting its “salmon canon.” Picture a kinder, gentler form of the same kind of suction tube that takes your deposit at a drive-up bank.

Whooshh Innovations, of Bellevue, Washington, has more information about adapting their fruit moving technology, to help solve the problem of letting fish move upstream. Below is a video that demonstrates the innovation. The company has lots more on its website, which was even recently featured in a segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Although a way may be found to move salmon upstream over huge dams, that may actually be the easier part of the problem to solve. After hatching, the young salmon have to get back to the ocean. They only swim upstream, so they have to be pushed by a considerable current, which is not present in Lake Roosevelt above Grand Coulee Dam.

But the salmon canon idea is still fun to watch:

 

Image of a chinook salmon by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used under Creative Commons license.

Lake Roosevelt level is dropping

The flood control level needed for Lake Roosevelt is set in the blue triangles for 2015, compared to the 2014 history depicted by the pink dotted line. -- USBR graph
The flood control level needed for Lake Roosevelt is set in the blue triangles for 2015, compared to the 2014 history depicted by the pink dotted line. — USBR graph

The level of Lake Roosevelt has already dropped to to a level not predicted until March, in a forecast put out in mid-January, 2015.

On Friday, Jan. 30, the lake surface was at about 1,276 feet above sea level, which will put out of reach several boat launches on the lake, but certainly not all. (See the list below).
The deepest access is offered at the Spring Canyon launch near Grand Coulee.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Grand Coulee Dam, which controls the lake, had published an estimate of the lake level drop this year showing a flood control schedule that would have still held the level at full pool until the end of February and eventually dropping to about 1,243 in April, not as far down as in 2014. But factors including weather and power demand can be hard to predict.

MINIMUM BOAT LAUNCH ELEVATIONS
Crescent Bay 1265′
Spring Canyon 1222′
Keller Ferry 1229′
Hansen Harbor 1253′
Jones Bay 1266′
Lincoln Mill 1245′
Hawk Creek 1281′
Seven Bays 1227′
Fort Spokane 1247′
Porcupine Bay 1243′
Hunters Camp 1230′
Gifford 1249′
Daisy 1265′
Bradbury Beach 1251′
Kettle Falls 1234′
Marcus Island 1281′
Evans 1280′
North Gorge 1280′
Snag Cove 1277′
French Rocks 1265′
Napoleon Bridge 1280′
China Bend 1277′

Helicopter capture of Lincoln area bighorn sheep scheduled Feb. 10

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff will be working to capture bighorn sheep from the Lincoln Cliffs herd in northern Lincoln County on Tuesday, Feb. 10, weather permitting, with a helicopter contractor.

One of the less well-known features of the area is that these big game animals live near Lake Roosevelt in the cliffs of the Lincoln area, north of Creston.

Up to 20 bighorn sheep will be ear-tagged and nine equipped with GPS tracking collars, then released so biologists can better monitor their movements, productivity, and survival, wildlife biologist Carrie Lowe said.

The sheep will be captured with nets shot from the helicopter, then moved to a staging area for handling by a ground crew. Information about each captured animal, including sex, age, and condition, plus blood samples for tracking disease, will be taken before release.

Lowe notes that the department is in the process of securing permission to access private land in the Lincoln and Whitestone Rock areas near the Lake Roosevelt shoreline for the work.

Bighorn sheep areas in Washington (WDFW).
Bighorn sheep areas in Washington (WDFW).

 

Top image: Bighorn on the shores of Lake Roosevelt. Photo by Beth Goetz

The First Place to Look to Plan Your Trip to the Grand Coulee Dam Area

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