Posted by: Columbia River | June 3, 2009

Castlegar – Grand Coulee

Hugh Keenleyside Dam and hydroelectric station on the Columbia River forms the “Arrow Lakes” resevoir, formerly two separate, large natural lakes called Upper and Lower Arrow Lake. The Columbia River below Keenleyside is one of the few miles of free flowing waters left on the river. It picks up speed past the town of Trial, though the boarder and into Lake Roosevelt.

The Town of Trail is also home to the largest non-ferrous lead and zinc smelter in the world, Teck Cominco, in the heart of downtown Trail. Teck Cominco is a frightening thought to those who live downstream of Trail, here is one reason why, Click Here, oh wait, here’s another, Click Here. And since we are on the subject, Click Here!

Lake Roosevelt History:
Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (also called Lake Roosevelt) is the reservoir created in 1941 by the impoundment of the Columbia River by the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State. It is named for Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited the site during the construction of the dam. Covering 125 square miles, it stretches about 150 miles from the Canadian border to Grand Coulee Dam, with over 600 miles of shoreline.

Grand Coulee Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington. In the United States, it is the largest electric power producing facility and the largest concrete structure. It’s also the fifth largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world.
The Grand Coulee Dam is almost a mile long at 5223 feet. The spillway is 1,650 feet wide and the hydraulic height of 380 feet. At 550 feet, it is taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza. Opening in 1942 the Dam backed up water past Kettle Falls and covered another ancient fishing grounds. The dam offered no fish passage.

The primary goal of irrigation was postponed as the wartime need for electricity increased. Aluminum smelting was vital to the war effort, and to airplane construction in particular. The electricity was also used to power plutonium production reactors and reprocessing facilities at the Hanford Site.



When Paul and Keel left Keenleyside Dam they had high hopes that since the Mountains were fading in the background that the weather would warm up, unfortunately it ended up being the worst winter conditions yet. They rounded the corner and set their sights on the getting past the border. From the town of Trail the Columbia picked up speed and pushed through some fast moving water down to the border. At the border… well.. didn’t really see the border… guess no one wanted to wait out in the freezing weather.

Soon the swift moving water came to a slow stop in the back of Roosevelt Lake. Days and days of paddling in freezing temperatures put them a few miles upstream of Grand Coulee. During the long days on the lake Paul actually set up a tarp sail with Keel’s help and used it for awhile, however it proved to be faster to keep paddling. “That was the coldest days out on the water for me. All of the gear was covered in a thick layer of ice, dry bags stuck to the frame, and the weather was cold enough to keep it there most of the day” said Paul. At Grand Coulee Keel went ahead to find someone who could help transport Paul’s Cataraft around the Dam. Keel eventually ran into Scott Hunter from the Star….. “Most businesses that might have a suitable trailer were closed. But we ran into Wayne Fowler, of D.W.K. Fowler Construction, who offered to lend a flatbed trailer. The two 24-year-old boaters unloaded the lumber, while I fetched my Jeep.”

Paul and Keel made it around Grand Coulee and were offered a ride around Chief Joseph, the next Dam 47 miles downstream, if they could make it by @ 6pm the next day. They set out, trying hard to paddle 47 miles in the 24 hour time frame! 14 Days into it and getting into a Dam portage every other day!

Here is proof you can have a great time on flat water in the freezing cold, Paul after 12 days of paddling, camping, living, and breathing the Columbia River in March.

All Photos by Paul Gamache
*Check back next week for the video on Castlegar – Grand Coulee

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