The new tours of Grand Coulee Dam take about an hour and afford visitors the opportunity to go into the Third Powerhouse and ride across the dam with a stop to look over the spillway.
Visitors this week will likely get an extra thrill when they stop for a spillway look because Bureau officials say that the facility will start spilling water sometime this week.
Visitor tours start with a briefing by tour guides who provide information about the dam, often with a humorous touch. Then its into a 20-passenger bus or a van for the driving part of the tour.
Visitors get to go through security control gates and ride to the lower portion of the Third Powerhouse, where they get out and walk into prescribed areas of the building housing six huge generators. Security is tight, but done in such a way that it isn’t intrusive.
All along the way, tour guides provide pertinent information and answer scores of questions. They either have the answers at hand or are quick to admit that they don’t know.
Tours begin at 10 a.m. seven days a week and go on the hour all day long.
Tour officials said people going on the tours should arrive 15 minutes early due to security reasons.
But we’ll tell you that if it looks like a real busy season, show up an hour early.
Here’s another tip you may only get at this blog: If you have a choice between the small bus and van, take the van. Those are driven by USBR tour guides who will tell you interesting facts as they drive you around the site. The buses are staffed by bus drivers. They drive.
The tours begin at the building at the east end of the dam almost directly across from the Visitor Center. No bags or purses are allowed on the tour because of security concerns; accordingly, visitors are encouraged to lock them in their cars. That includes camera bags (although cameras are OK) and even diaper bags.
Either before or after the tour, see the interactive exhibits at the Visitor Center, and catch a short movie or two about the history of the dam.