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grand coulee dam

Airstream road trip, Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia River, Washington


Grand Coulee Dam is 550 feet high! 5,223 feet long! Generates 6,809 megawatts of electricity! And other measurements as well [Eddie Izzard]. The best statistic comes from a jaunty pamphlet provided by the Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation: “Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world. What else could you build with 12 million cubic yards of concrete? A sidewalk four feet wide and four inches thick and wrap it twice around the equator (50,000 miles), or a highway from Seattle to Miami.”

Ok, ok. Wow. A visit to Grand Coulee on the Columbia River sounds like it might be boring but it’s quite the sight and has the most fun visitor center. Among the exhibits are Roosevelt’s wheelchair, a pair of weighted shoes that the construction divers wore, and a vibrating jack hammer that will truly make you empathize with olden concrete workers and have renewed appreciation for your desk job.

Displayed are the jars and photograph from the day the Apple Blossom princesses poured a gallon of water from each of the fifty states into the canal below, symbolizing the entire country’s contribution to The Dam during a ceremony before the first generator began producing power. You can play and/or sing along with Woody Guthrie’s Grand Coulee Dam, a tune from 1941 that Bonneville Power commissioned for $266.

Stick around after dark; on summer nights they crank up four Argon and Krypton gas lasers in a booth at the visitor center and project a light show of graphics and beams onto the surface of the dam, making it one of the largest projection screens in the world. 

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