"Town by a Dam Site...." Grand Coulee by Camping_Girl

Grand Coulee Travel Guide: 29 reviews and 200 photos

Largest Concrete Structure in the US

The Grand Coulee Dam is reportedly the biggest power producing dam in the US as well as the largest concrete structure in the US. That statement may sound dubious at first, but the dam is almost a mile wide (5,223 ft) and is 550 ft high. The concrete in the dam could build a sidewalk 4 ft wide and 4 inches deep around the equator twice. That's a lot of concrete!

Built on the Columbia River, the reservoir created by this dam is called Lake Roosevelt, a lake that stretches for some 150 miles to the north of the dam. It provides recreational opportunities for thousands of people each year.


The Grand Coulee Dam was built in the 1930's as a make-work project during the Great Depression. It was not without its controversies. The dam created a real threat to the native Indian way of life in this area, because the reservoir flooded much of their traditional lands, burial grounds and hunting areas. It also blocked the natural migration of salmon in the Upper Columbia Basin. It drastically affected wildlife in the area, through the loss of much of their natural habitat as well. The town of Kettle Falls had to be completely relocated, as did many Indian gravesites and remains. 77 men died (according to official records) in the construction of the dam.

Many groups were against the building of this dam but FD Roosevelt built it nevertheless. And now it is the 4th largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world.

Visitor Centre

The visitor centre at the dam is an interesting tour, even for a non-dam enthusiast like myself! There are models of a turbine and of the dam itself which help explain how power is generated from water. There are many historical pictures of the construction of the dam. On summer evenings there is even a laser light show held on the dam's wall. Visitors can ride a glass elevator from the penstocks 400 ft down to view the generators.

  • Last visit to Grand Coulee: Aug 2007
  • Intro Updated Jan 2, 2009
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