September 29, 2014

9/17/14 - Coulee Corridor NSB

George's grandfather worked on Grand Coulee Dam back in the 1930s and he'd occasionally mention that the family went there when he was a kid, George and I have driven Highway 2 a lot between Seattle and Spokane, but never made the detour to the dam.  He decided while we were staying in Quincy, we'd go see it.

The Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway goes from Omak to Othello, about 150 miles. We picked it up at Soap Lake and drove north 50 miles to the dam.
Lenore Lake
Perhaps you don't know what a coulee is, and what makes this one grand?  Well, I didn't either. (Apparently the definition depends on what state you're in, kind of like the difference between BBQ in different states.)  Since this is eastern Washington, it refers to the dry channels formed by glacial drainage of the Scablands quite some time ago. You have to have an appreciation of bare rocks, but the Grand Coulee does make for some wicked looking scenery.  There are rugged canyons, fascinating rock formations and lots of lakes.  This one is Blue Lake.
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park marks the divide between the Lower and Upper Grand Coulee.  This 400 foot high cliff used to be a 3.5 mile wide waterfall!  Niagara Falls is pretty big--this one was four times that size. Now most of the water is gone and little Park Lake at the base and the rest of the Sun Lakes are all that's left of the Ice Age Wonder.
Dry Falls
There used to be a trail from the parking lot down to the lake, but it's closed off.  There's a road down to the campgrounds and boat launch, as well as a private resort in the state park.
I really like the way the basalt curves in this chunk of canyon.
Steamboat Rock State Park is at the north end of Banks Lake. From a distance it looks like an island, but it's actually on a peninsula.
We got to Grand Coulee Dam about 2:30.  After school starts, they do more tours on weekends than during the week.  This is Monday, and we msised the afternoon tour by minutes. The Laser Light Show didn't start until 8:30 so we were too early for that. (Maybe I can get George to come back sometime within the next 25 years; we can camp somewhere closer, get there earlier and stay later.)

At the Visitors Center we saw the movie and wandered the halls looking at the exhibits. Besides info on building the dam, there are displays about Woody Guthrie, commemorative stamps and post cards, a WattMeter, a Rosie the Riveter Quilt, and my personal favorite, a collection of water jugs with water from all the states and territories.
Check out the picture in the middle--that's the queen and 50 princesses from the 1951 Washington State Apple Blossom Festival symbolically pouring water over the dam.  Only in America...
On the way home, we stopped at the Gehrke Windmill Garden in Grand Coulee.  There are more than 120 whirly gigs built by Emil Gehrke.  They were in his yard until he died, then moved to a city park. Pity about the fence, but apparently even whimsy has to be protected from vandals and thieves.

A word about advance planning.  I'm usually pretty good about preparing for a trip before we leave.  Not only did I not check times for the tour and Laser Show, but I didn't realize until later that had we driven another mile past the dam, George could have gotten another Passport stamp.  Oh, well, one more reason to go back!

More pictures here:  Coulee Corridor Natl Scenic Byway

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  1. Crikey ...... Mum's sure missed your posts. She loves reading of your travels. She's a bit busy today so she'll be reading them later tonight. So good to see you back!!


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