"Good Fishing in the Main Street of Marcus"

Taming the Mighty Columbia

Once a thriving Columbia River town, the site of Marcus now lies beneath the waters of Lake Roosevelt.

As the Grand Coulee Dam grew higher in the 1930s, the water of the Columbia River rose behind it. 150 miles of the free-flowing river was transformed into the placid Lake Roosevelt, drowning hundreds of acres of timber, farmland, Indian villages, and camas meadows. Also below the waters of Lake Roosevelt lie eleven little agricultural towns with names like Peach, Inchelium, and this town, Marcus, Washington.

The US government surveyed a line at 1310 feet above sea level and to mark the height of the coming flood waters. $10 million was spent buying property in the flood zone. A small house and property averaged about $3,000.

Marcus, settled in the 1860s and incorporated in 1910, was one of the largest towns below the flood line with 600 residents. By 1933 Marcus boasted a thriving Main Street with a post office, a general store, two groceries, a barber shop, beer halls, a movie theater, a bank and even a hospital. All of which was about to be under 60 feet of water.

A new Marcus was laid out a few miles away, but not everyone relocated there and the town never prospered. Other flooded towns met similar fates. Some towns merged with others already above the flood zone. The town of Kettle Falls was relocated to Meyers Falls. As the towns combined, the name changed to Kettle Falls because there were more residents from the original Kettle Falls living in what used to be Meyers Falls. Other towns were not completely flooded. Only half of Daisy was submerged under Lake Roosevelt and it was suspected that it might become a resort town with its new lakeside location. However the town eventually diminished to a stop sign and a convenience store.

Homes were not the only structures removed from the flood zone. A Works Progress Administration crew hurried to clear the flood zone completely before the high water of the spring of 1941. This included trees, railroad tracks, and old barns so they wouldn't start "bobbing up to the surface in years to come." The Great Northern terminal, originally in Marcus, was relocated to the new town of Kettle Falls. The government rebuilt 26 miles of railroad track and 227 miles of highway.

Though the original town of Marcus has lain below the waters of Lake Roosevelt for 60 Years, it is not forgotten. Many springs, as the lake is drawn down to generate power, the ghost town of Marcus is again visible. Sidewalks and streets and foundations rise from the water for a few days or weeks, reminding reminding us all of Marcus and the other drowned towns of the upper Columbia.

Images

Floating Camp

Floating Camp

Floating camps were used by the WPA to clear otherwise unreachable areas of the flood zone. Listen to the audio clip for more on the floating camps of Grand Coulee. Courtsey of The Bureau of Reclamation. View File Details Page

Flood Zone

Flood Zone

The entire area of the flood zone had to be cleared of debris before the water rose and washed it into the dam. Toward the end of the clearing opperations, crews had to resorts to burnings inorders to get everything cleared in time. Courtesy of the Northwest Room at the Spokane Public Library. View File Details Page

Marcus

Marcus

Indians observing a Marcus 4th of July celebration in the 1890s. Indian villages were also relocated with the construction of the dam. Courtesy of the Northwest Room at the Spokane Public Library. View File Details Page

Marcus

Marcus

Life in Marcus before the flood involved celebrations and activities with local Native Americans, including races. Courtesy of the Northwest Room at the Spokane Public Library. View File Details Page

Beginnings of Marcus

Beginnings of Marcus

The original buildings of the British settlement in the 1860s. Courtesy of the Northwest Room at the Spokane Public Library. View File Details Page

Streets of Marcus

Streets of Marcus

A view of Marcus in the 1890s, before talk even started about a dam on the Columbia River. Courtesy of the Northwest Room at the Spokane Public Library. View File Details Page

Audio

Audio File 1

View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Erin Pulley, “"Good Fishing in the Main Street of Marcus",” Spokane Historical, accessed May 30, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/377.
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