A Trip Through Grand Coulee Country

You’ve no doubt heard of the Dam – the largest hydropower producer in the United States and one of the largest concrete structures in the world.

But there’s more to Grand Coulee than the Dam.

Appropriate as the word grand is for the dam, the name Grand Coulee actually refers to a unique geological feature created thousands of years ago when Ice Age glaciers blocked the ancient riverbed of the Columbia River. When water eventually traveled under the ice dam, great floods scoured out hundreds of miles of deep gulches, or coulees, in the Columbia River Basin. One of these, the Grand Coulee, is four miles wide and bordered on three sides by steep cliffs.”  For more on the Dam see the National Parks website.

We visited Grand Coulee last week – dramatic, arid, vast and empty – starting from Wenatchee Confluence State Park where we were camped next to the Columbia River.

We headed northeast toward Grand Coulee Country where there were roads with slow moving tractors,

and lonesome  farms,

and fields growing wheat and electricity.

We passed through small towns including Waterville,

and Douglas, where we found a fire truck for sale.

There was a stop at Dry Falls, where a giant waterfall once flowed during the last Ice Age

which I told you about previously –  here.

From Dry Falls we headed to Banks Lake, a 31-mile long reservoir filled in the 1950s to provide irrigation water to the Columbia Basin.

We passed by Steamboat Rock, which you can hike to the top of, but we did not.

Instead we continued our drive around the lake

through scablands with sagebrush and canyons

until we approached Grand Coulee Dam from behind,  where the Columbia River was backed up waiting to become hydroelectric power.

We stopped to admire its awesome size and watch the movie at the Visitor Center.

Then we continued on our way south through the heart of Grand Coulee

and west again to where we’d started, arriving back to our campsite in Wenatchee as the sun was about to set.

It was everything we wanted in a road trip –  amazing geography, deserted roads, and small towns,  all under blue skies and brilliant sunshine.

We vowed to return.

~ Susanne

6 Comments on “A Trip Through Grand Coulee Country

  1. You got the tiny caravan out at last!
    I have heard of that dam, but never seen it before. As dam architecture goes, I think I prefer the Hoover Dam, with its hint of Art Deco styling. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Yes, this was our first trip of the year and it was fun to go somewhere different. As far as dams go, I haven’t seen Hoover, which is higher while Grand Coulee is more massive and produces the most power. It also has a cool song, Roll on Columbia Roll On! 😊

  2. I love that dry, wide open countryside. Always enjoyed driving those long, lonesome roads.

  3. I think many people are surprised by how dry eastern Oregon and Washington are. I am glad you posted these pictures since they make such an obvious contrast with many of you coastal shots.

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