Category Archives: Astounding Facts

Stuff you’d never guess.

Windmill art is a glimpse of area’s great asset: ingenuity

I’ve often said that the most enduring legacy from the boomtown days for this community remains a sense of ingenuity. Certainly that’s what marked the contributions of thousands of people who helped design and build the biggest hydroelectric dam in North America.

Emil Gehrke’s windmills, made of what most of us might have called junk, now stand as folk art at North Dam Park, a testament to inventiveness and creativity, and perhaps moving (literally) symbols of the modern ethic of “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.”

 

New Visitors’ Guide coming out; see the print edition online now

Our latest printed issue of the Visitors’ Guide is at the printers’, but in this day and age, why wait?
Take a look right now by clicking on the image below to open it up in your browser (Flash required, sorry; so here’s a link for iPhone or iPad access. It’s limited.)

Climbing Steamboat Rock

From the top
The view from the top of Steamboat

A recent visitor to the area was kind enought to post a great blog piece about their climb up Steamboat Rock.

Posting photos from significant stops along the route, you get to see how the climb looks before you decide to try it. (It’s pretty do-able for most folks, but it’s utterly without any services at the top).
I haven’t done this in a while, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor, especially is you’ve visited the Visitor Center at Grand Coulee Dam and understand how the Grand Coulee (the canyon, not the dam) was formed. It’s a jaw-dropper view from the top.

For a quick preview of it, see this couple’s great post.

See the night sky, coulee style

Live a little, learn a lot with this fresh look at the night sky

One of the great things about being located where there is a part of the National Park Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and a great state park is that those entities all come with talented, interesting people.

And some of those folks will put on an interesting program for free this Saturday night.

A community astronomy program will be held July 9, beginning at Grand Coulee Dam’s Visitor Center at 7:15 p.m. and ending up at Crown Point at 9 p.m., according to Janice Elvidge of the National Park Service.

Elvidge will begin the night’s program in the Visitor Center auditorium where she will present an introduction to the night sky and explore through pictures some of the wonders of the heavens.
After that part of the program, those attending will retire to Crown Point where they will get to take a look at the galaxy, a nebula, the moon and one of our solar system’s planets through a telescope.

The Crown Point overlook, by the way, is a rather out-of-the-way must see, to which you might wish to return the next morning if you haven’t been there yet. It offers a fantastic view down river and up lake way over the top of the dam.

And if you’re a geo-cacher, there’s a nearby treasure to find. I’ll bet even Elvidge doesn’t know that.

Elvidge encourages people to bring their telescopes, spotting scopes or binoculars, if they have them, and to wear warm clothes.

She said the program will only be cancelled if it rains.

The event is sponsored by Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Washington State Parks, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Fourth will be dramatically different at Grand Coulee Dam this year

Official prediction: water to spill over the top

Sunrise adds a glimmer to a waterfall over Grand Coulee Dam 300 feet tall and half a mile wide.

This year’s Fourth of July will be dramatically different at Grand Coulee Dam and on Lake Roosevelt behind it.

You’ll be able to watch the dramatic spill at Grand Coulee Dam this weekend or over the Fourth of July holiday.

It’s rare, but this year’s climate conditions actually lead to a fairly stable prediction: expect water to overtop Grand Coulee Dam for at least a week and a half.

The long, cool spring, coupled with a double the normal snowpack in the mountains upstream (including Canada) from Grand Coulee has led to a later-than-normal spring runoff, and a big one at that.

Lake Roosevelt is quite low for this time of year, but very accessible, with great big beaches – hundreds of miles of them.

And visitors to the Grand Coulee Dam Festival of America July 2, 3 and 4 will be able to get an up-close view of the 300-foot-high, half-mile wide waterfall that will cool the park below the Visitor Center at the dam.

Over the last month, dam operators have been regulating the rise of the lake by “spilling” water through outlet tubes in the middle of the dam big enough to drive a truck through.

From 50,000 to 100,000 cubic feet per second shoots through those tubes into the river below. That’s up to about 750,000 gallons each second, less than half the river’s flow of about 2 million gps.

My house is about a half mile from the face of the dam, and my kitchen cupboards rattle just a little from the impact.

A more serious problem is that the resulting air injected into the water kills fish downstream, which take in too much nitrogen-saturated water through their gills.

A fish farm 20 miles downstream raising 2.7 million steelhead trout was losing them by the thousands. That operation has now apparently lost at least 100,000 of its big triploids, and anglers are snatching them up in Lake Rufus Woods — that part of the Columbia River between Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams.

Even so, operators will need to keep spilling through the outlet tubes even after the water tops the dam until enough volume is spilling over for a controlled spill, said Bureau of Reclamation Public Affairs Officer Lynne Brougher.

When you see the nice spill, realize that the management of the flow at this dam is the key to managing a river draining an area the size of France so that Portland, Ore. and points downstream does not flood.

Not letting the lake fill too quickly is critical in that plan.

“Actually,” Bougher said, “the system is working as it was designed to do this year.” She said the lower Columbia has been held right at flood stage, “and we’ve still got room” to fill the lake.

Normally full by July 4, Lake Roosevelt will likely be full about July 10 or 11, she said.