Putting the ‘Grand’ in Grand Coulee
If you've been in the mood to say, "now there's something you don't see every day" lately, then you're in luck! Have I got a great little bend in the road for you to check out.
Actually, there's nothing little about this bend, and I suppose it's a bit more than a bend at that; but at any rate, this is a must-see if you're a road warrior or a geography buff like me.
The plentiful mountain snowpack from this past winter combined with a recent wave of unseasonably-warm weather in North Central Washington has created a veritable deluge of melt off in just about every body of water within the region. And when that happens, it not only means that the rivers are running faster and colder, but also suddenly-deeper too, which translates into a lot more water being spilled through the area's dams.
It's remarkably obvious. Just drive by any of them which cross the Columbia River right now and you'll see tons more water than usual spilling over each of them, from Rock Island to Wells, and Rocky Reach to Chief Joe.
And while all of these manmade cascades might make for quite an impressive spectacle, nothing can top the amount of water that's currently falling over the side of the biggest dam of them all in our neck of the woods. In fact, it's the second-largest concrete dam in the United States, and one of the largest concrete structures in the entire world for that matter. Of course, I'm referring to Grand Coulee Dam!
Now I'll have you know that I drive by Grand Coulee Dam at least twenty times every year, and ordinarily when doing so, there's barely any water - if any - spilling over its massive gray façade.
In the spring, that changes of course, but not to the degree which can currently be seen there.
This year's inordinate snowmelt and subsequent river flows into the Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt have prompted a cataract of epic proportions, and led to something that you won't see very often...even if you've lived here your whole life like me.
This past weekend, I took a lovely Saturday drive through a variety of backroads in the Upper Columbia Basin and found myself at the southern dock of the Keller Ferry on State Route 21. So I took the ten-minute ride on the M/V Sanpoil across FDR Lake and then cruised Manilla Creek Road to Peter Dan Road, which is the back way to Grand Coulee. And upon arriving there, was astounded at the amount of foam raging over Grand Coulee Dam!
I call it foam or shaving cream because of how the rushing torrent turns the water white from the top of the dam all the way down!
It's an awesome sight...and perhaps an even more dramatic sound to experience. But you'll need to stop the car and head to the visitors center for a closer inspection to find out how truly tempestuous the noise of that much water rushing at near-terminal velocity down a structure that's 550-feet high really is.
So if you wanna see...and hear Grand Coulee Dam in all its glory, I'd hightail it up or down State Route 155 really soon, since the heavy foam won't be spilling over its mighty edges much longer.