Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Grand Coulee

Oftentimes, reading our blog is educational.  Consider it a free service and an enrichment of your life.

Today I did two of the things I knew long ago that I wanted to do whenever I got to the Pacific Northwest.  Tomorrow, I'm going to do another, and it kind of ties in with today.  The other thing was to see the Spruce Goose, which I did not do but is a fun story in it's own right.

The Grand Coulee
Lower Coulee
is an ancient geological thingy that was created at the end of the last ice age when the glaciers melted en masse (also will tie in, in a few days) but not before the land was formed even earlier by volcanic activity.

Upper Coulee
Two prehistoric lakes created in this region were Lake Bonneville, and Lake Missoula, both of which were enormous, larger than today's Great Lakes.  On more than on occasion, ice dams clogged and backed up the furious Columbia River to create Missoula, only to then burst and release an unholy amount of water, greater than the flow of all Earth's rivers today COMBINED, in a period of weeks if not days.  The Grand Coulee was violently scoured from the volcanic rock during these events, over a mile wide and hundreds of feet deep.  In the middle, it created a backwards-migrating waterfall (just like Niagara is doing.)  At Dry Falls, the remains of this are plain to see - a "waterfall" that is a mile and a half wide and twice as high as Niagara, but the only water to be found rests in the churning pools that formed at the base where the water came crashing down.

Dry Falls
Today, you can ride right up the Coulee on highway 155 and imagine the force of the water.  The falls divides the upper basin from the lower, the upper ending at the current course of the Columbia river, where the "natural" flow was prior to the ice dams, and where we, of course, dammed it ourselves.
This dam is amazing.  If you were following along, you know that it must be (and is) a mile in length, is twice as high as Niagara Falls, and contains twice the concrete of the Hoover Dam, enough to build a sidewalk around the Earth twice.  It is the largest source of electrical power in the United States.

And every night in the summer, they open the drum valves at the top, and project a half-hour narrated laser show onto the thundering curtain of water.  It is an experience unique unto itself. 

What I don't understand is why the town has 3 dinky hotels and about 50 people were sitting in the park watching the show, compared to the umpteen million at Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.  I'm not saying that this is a better experience, but the difference in significance is slight, yet 99% of the world has never heard of it.

But I have:-).  And now, you have too.
Bad photo - road and vehicle for scale

No comments:

Post a Comment