Aerial view, Grand Coulee Dam, prior to 1978
Aerial view, Grand Coulee Dam, ca 1983
Grand Coulee is an ancient river bed once thought to have been carved out by retreating glaciers but later discovered to have been the result of massive floods from Lake Missoula. As early as 1892 proposals were being made to build a dam across the Columbia River near Grand Coulee to irrigate eastern Washington for farming. Concerns about the size of the man made lake this would create and lack of funding contributed to the dam not being built at that time. Several other similar proposals were made and finally in 1933 work commenced on a low dam to provide power and irrigation. The design was modified to a high dam (550 feet or 168 meters) in 1934 and completed in 1942.
The 151-mile reservoir lake created by the dam is named after Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was the President of the United States who authorized and presided over the completion of the dam. Creation of the huge lake meant that over 3,000 people living in the area had to be relocated and many trees removed. Huge pumps lift the water into the reservoir. Hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile land have been cultivated in eastern Washington because of the dam.
The top postcard photograph was taken prior to the completion of the Third Powerhouse. I am not sure how the photographer managed to achieve such a dramatic reddish color to the landscape but it is very beautiful in a stark way. Both cards were distributed by Smith-Western Co. of Tacoma, Washington. The second card was issued in 1983 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Columbia Basin Project and the Dedication of the Grand Coulee Third Powerplant. There were two lakes created by the dam, FDR and the smaller Banks Lake both shown in the photograph from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
I have visited Grand Coulee a couple of times and include some pictures below taken in 1985. Both of the postcards show the dam in full or almost full flood while this picture below has only a small amount of water flowing over the spillway.
Grand Coulee Dam, June 1985
Bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt overlooking the lake
In 1952 the U.S. Postal Service issued a Grand Coulee Dam commemorative stamp and since I also like stamps as well as postcards I looked to see if it was possible to find one. The answer was yes, and here it is below --
Grand Coulee also has a Visitor Center containing many historical photos, geological samples and dam models.
For additional information, please see: