Good Fishing on the Main Street of Marcus

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.

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The Downed Town of Marcus, Washington
National Park Service Interpreter, Brandon Cadwell, talks about one of his favorite places, the drowned town on Marcus, Washington. ~ Source: Interview with Brandon Cadwell, 8/7/2017. ~ Creator: Logan Camporeale
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