Category Archives: Astounding Facts

Stuff you’d never guess.

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.

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.

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

People are amazed, and here’s a video to show why

People are constantly amazed by the size of the dam and the achievement of building it.
People are constantly amazed by the size of the dam and the achievement of building it.

Visitors using Instagram are always posting how amazed they are when they see Grand Coulee Dam.

“It amazes me how humans built this large, amazing structure more than 80 years ago!” wrote @lishlo this morning in a public post.

The Bureau of Reclamation has produced a top quality documentary on the building of Grand Coulee Dam to show you the amazing story behind the immense effort, the big thinking, innovation and, yes, even politics it took. If you want to visit it, you’ll appreciate it even more if you understand the whole story, so we’ll post the video here, which you can also watch on a big screen in comfortable seats at the Visitor Center when you get here.