What is larger than the Great Pyramid of Egypt, able to hold back the force of a mighty river, and more powerful than a million locomotives? It’s Grand Coulee Dam, the country’s largest concrete dam and hydroelectric project!
Located only a half-hour drive from Wilbur, Grand Coulee Dam is enormous – containing almost 12,000,000 cubic yards of concrete. Constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation 70 years ago, it stands astride the Columbia River, one of the largest rivers in North America. The dam blocks the Columbia, forming Lake Roosevelt, which extends 151 miles upstream to the Canadian border.
Grand Coulee is 450 feet at the base and towers 550 feet above bedrock, as high as the Washington Monument. There is enough concrete in the structure to build a six-foot wide sidewalk around the world at the equator.
The three power plants at Grand Coulee have a total capacity of 6,809,000 kilowatts, making it the largest hydro-electric generating facility in the country and third largest in the world.
Upon arrival at Coulee Dam, visitors should stop by the Visitors Center for a spectacular look at the mammoth structure and to view informational movies relating to the dam. In the spring of 2006, the Center was revamped with all new exhibits and displays, with fast-paced, hands-on activities including video games and a working jackhammer.
Because Grand Coulee Dam is an operating project, maintenance and operations sometimes preclude tours. Call 509-633-9265 to find out if there will be scheduled tours on any given day, or stop by the Visitors Arrival Center. On most days, there will be tours, but even if there isn’t, you can enjoy a close look at the dam from the Visitors Center.
The most spectacular highlight of a visit to Grand Coulee Dam is the laser light show, said to be one of the largest in the world. The show features sight and sound, with enormous full-color images playing across the surface of the dam. Many of them are choreographed to music, while others tell a story. The laser light show can be seen every evening from Memorial Day weekend through September, beginning soon after dark.