Grand Coulee Dam and the Lake Roosevelt Drawdown

When Grand Coulee Dam was constructed on the Columbia River in the 1930s the water behind the dam created Lake Roosevelt. It stretches from the dam to the Canadian border north of us. Grand Coulee Dam provides power, water for irrigation, and flood control . Each year starting in early April we experience a drawdown of Lake Roosevelt. Because more water was needed this year the drawdown is greater. It changes the landscape of the area around Lake Roosevelt where we live. All the part that is sand above is usually underwater. Barnaby Island is not an island right now. The locals always plan hikes from the campground out to the island this time of year when the sandy shore is exposed on all sides.
Looking north it almost looks like a beach at the ocean in this picture. You can see the channel that is getting smaller. A few months ago this was all covered with water. A new island has even emerged on the lake by our house. Believe me... there are many more places to take hikes during the drawdown.

The original town of Inchelium was also moved when they filled Lake Roosevelt. It is a tradition during a big drawdown to hike to Old Inchelium with our students to locate streets and foundations. The elders love to come and share stories about living on the Columbia River and moving the town to a higher spot. Above the bridge at Kettle Falls we can now see the place the Indians gathered each year to catch salmon. There is rich history around my corner of the world. This time of year the past and present intertwine with ritual and remembrance.


  1. Wow what a great place, it does look like the beach with the sea in the background..... sounds like a fasinating place to explore with the water so low.....


  2. I haven't been to the dam since I was a kid.
    THIS YEAR I swear I'm coming up.


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