All posts by Scott Hunter

Scott has been living in the Grand Coulee Dam area since 1988 and loving it.

55th Colorama full of things to do

Colorama is a fun ride, and that's no bull.

The 55th Colorama celebration is coming on fast. It begins May 10, with the opening of the Paradise Amusement Carnival and lasts through Sunday with the Cleatis Lacy Memorial Bull Riding event, May 13, at the Ridge Riders Rodeo grounds.

The events:
• The carnival kicks off at 5 p.m. Thursday, opens Friday at 3 p.m. for two sessions and again Saturday at 11 a.m. for two sessions.
There are discount tickets at various venues in the area through Thursday. Discount tickets go for $25 for each session (savings of about $10) and are available at The Star newspaper, Chamber of Commerce office, North Cascades National Bank, H&H Grocery and Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union.
• Come to the traditional Arts & Crafts Fair at North Dam Park, opening at 10 a.m. both Friday and Saturday. Don’t worry about lunch because there are a lot of good food booths.
• The Pro-West Rodeo lasts three days this year, with the added Sunday Cleatis Lacy Bull Riding event. The rodeo begins at 6 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.
• The Senior Cowboy Breakfast takes off at 7 a.m. Saturday and runs until 10:30 a.m. Better show up and get fed before the big parade.
• The big parade, the highlight of the Colorama celebration, begins at 11 a.m. and travels from Les Schwab on Federal Avenue, then down Midway Avenue.
• The Over the Dam Run, for 5K, 10K and half marathon take off on the east side of Grand Coulee Dam and end up at North Dam Park.
• The popular “Walk Across the Dam” sponsored by the Rotary Club will again be offered as a new-school fund raiser.
• Colorama Buttons are on sale throughout the community. Purchase one for $3 and you could be the winner of several prizes being offered.
• More events: Check out the arm wrestling contest Saturday at Pepper Jack’s. And Curt Davis will play guitar and sing at North Dam Park at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center and Tour Schedule

This kid thought the vibrating jackhammer was great fun.

The Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center is open daily and public tours are being offered. The visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are given daily into the John W. Keys, III Pump-Generating Plant at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

This is a change from last year, when visitors toured the Third Power Plant, which is now being prepared for a big upgrade.

Visitors will ride a shuttle bus to the pumping plant where they will view the gigantic pumps that lift water from Lake Roosevelt to be delivered throughout the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project.

Visitors will then ride the shuttle bus across the top of Grand Coulee Dam for spectacular views of Lake Roosevelt and the Columbia River as it winds through the town of Coulee Dam.

The one-hour tours are on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, no reservations are taken and space is limited.

Beginning May 26, the Visitor Center hours will be extended from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. during the summer season. This will also mark the beginning of the popular laser light show, which will run nightly through the end of September.

For more information, call (509) 633-9265.

Russian artist shares his perspective of region in exhibit at Dry Falls

The photographers dog takes a peek over the edge of the cliff early in the morning at Dry Falls, with the visitor center in the background.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission invites the public to attend an oil painting exhibit at Dry Falls Visitor Center featuring work by Russian artist Gennady Ugryumov near Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park.
The oil paintings are on display throughout 2012 in Dry Falls Visitor Center, 34875 Park Lake Road N.E., Coulee City.
The post-impressionist landscapes on canvas feature Ugryumov’s interpretation of the middle Columbia River and the Columbia Plateau region as experienced in his July and November 2009 visits to the area. Ugryumov’s exhibit, titled the Big River series, includes 20 individual landscape pieces and a three-section mural entitled, “Children of the Big River.” The exhibit is recognized by the Colville Confederated Tribes.
“Children of the Big River” is a large, 51- by 204-inch mural inspired by Ugryumov’s July 2010 visit to the Colville Confederated Tribes’ annual powwow ceremony. The mural depicts themes of the past, present and future of the Columbia Plateau region, using gradual value changes to illustrate the viewer’s movement from past to future.
Ugryumov is a native of Vesyegonsk, a small village along the Vologda River in the Tver Province of west-central Russia. His formal training is from the Tver Fine Arts Institute, of which the Big River series was displayed in 2010. Ugryumov is also a member of the Russian Fine Artist League.
Dry Falls Visitor Center is located two miles north of Sun Lake-Dry Falls State Park on Highway 17. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (except Thursdays) Jan. 2 to April 30 and Oct. 1 to Dec. 31; and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily May 1 to Sept. 30. Admission is by donation.
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is a 4,027-acre camping park with 73,640 feet of freshwater shoreline at the foot of Dry Falls. Dry Falls is a geological wonder of North America. Carved by Ice Age floods, the former waterfall is now a stark cliff, 400 feet high and 3.5 miles wide. In its heyday, the waterfall was four times the size of Niagara Falls. Today, it overlooks a desert oasis filled with lakes and abundant wildlife.
The Commission manages a diverse system of more than 100 state parks and recreation programs, including long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation. The 98-year-old park system will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013.
Washington State Parks is on Twitter at WaStatePks_NEWS and YouTube at WashingtonStateParks.

Fishing is great, despite it all

Bass boats speed up a lowered Banks Lake
Bass boats speed up a lowered Banks Lake

“The most beautiful place in the world.”

That’s the way a man from the western part of Washington state last weekend described to me the place where I live. The avid bass fisherman said that twice a year, he makes his pilgrimage to Coulee Playland to go bass fishing. And he’s so “ansty” to get going, he can’t wait until Friday mornging to leave.

Instead, my new acquaintance, met at a newspaper industry conference in Everett, said he gets home from work Thursday evening, packs up and heads to the Grand Coulee. He drives through the night, launches his boat at first light, fishes all morning, then comes back and sets up his campsite.

“My wife never could understand why I would get so antsy to leave,” he told me, “until she came along. … Now she understands.”

I asked if he planned to fish Banks Lake while it was drawn down this winter. He said he hoped to make it over, if for no other reason than to see and map the underlying structure of the lake now exposed because of the drawdown of the lake for maintenance purposes, a very rare event.

Bass angling friends, he said, report that fishing has been good during the drawdown, but the regular winter strategies are out the window. The fish are confused and sometimes huddle together, their favorite places now high and dry.

Two weekends ago, organizers of an annual bass tournament at Coulee Playland were glad they decided not to cancel their event. They had a blast in the lowered lake with more concentrated fishing, according to Coulee Playland’s Hal Rauch.

A confession: I am not a fisherman, but I still think this is the most beautiful place in the world.

Tribal report says no harm to native runs from escaped farm fish

Upper Columbia steelhead runs are safe and not threatened by farm-raised trout that escaped from net pens off the shores of Rufus Woods Lake this summer, the business that raises the fish said Monday.

A press release from Pacific Aquaculture Inc. states that a senior resident fisheries biologist with the Colville Tribes investigated the situation recently.

The fish farm pays rent and royalties to the Colville Tribes to operate its net pens some 20 miles downstream from Grand Coulee Dam, where it feeds millions of fish.

More than 100,000 of them escaped last summer, following massive die-offs that resulted from too much air injected into the water at Grand Coulee Dam during spring runoff.

The escaped fish triggered a boon in local fishing tourism, with up to 100 or so rigs reportedly parked at the Seaton’s Grove boat launch at times.

“There is no evidence that these farm raised trout are feeding on young migrating steelhead,” said Ed Shallenberger, a Ph.D. with over 20 years’ experience conducting physical and biological studies in the mid-Columbia River, the fish farm reported.

“A recent in-depth analysis of the stomachs of 187 of the escaped farm-raised trout in Rufus Woods Lake determined that the primary food sources for these fish were insects and snails,” Shallenberger said. “Of the 187 fish that were analyzed, only eight had remains from sculpins and sticklebacks. No remains from juvenile trout or salmon were found.”

Shallenberger conducted the tests as part of an ongoing study of Rufus Woods Lake. Concern had been raised by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and others about the safety of young migrating steelhead.

Established in 1941 as a small retail shop in Portland, Ore., Pacific Seafood has become a leader in the seafood industry.

“Like the Department of Fish and Wildlife, we are concerned with the well-being of native fish on the river,” said Pacific Aquaculture Manager John Bielka. “Our top priority has always been to run an operation that is sustainable and safe for the Columbia River System.”

During a special season on Rufus Woods Lake in August, anglers caught hundreds of the escaped sterile trout ranging from 5-10 pounds. The special season attracted anglers from across Washington state.

“While the situation was unfortunate,” Bielka stated, “steelhead runs are safe and the net impact of the fish farm remains positive – for tourism and retail sales and employment for the Colville Nation.”