Taming the Mighty Columbia

The Columbia River, was a lifeway for Indian Tribes, a pathway for white explorers, a highway for steamboats and barges, and today a source of irrigation, hydropower, and recreation. What was once a wild and awe-inspiring force of nature, with rapids and salmon runs, is currently a pacified string of lakes that provide sustenance to the Pacific Northwest and energy to the nation. This tour introduces some of the more significant historic sites, such as Kettle Falls, Grand Coulee Dam, Town of Marcus, and Chief Joseph Fish Hatchery.

The Lake Roosevelt Partnership is a collaboration between Lake Roosevelt National Recreation area and the History Department at Eastern Washington University. Since 2012 these partners have worked together to tell the stories of the park to a wider audience while training the next generation of park interpreters in digital storytelling.

Carving the Columbia

Between 18,000 and 13,000 years ago, glaciers advanced and retreated over northern Washington. This ice formed a fragile dam on the Clark Fork River, which slowly filled with water, creating glacial Lake Missoula. The lake spanned hundreds of miles…

Chief Joseph Dam

Bridgeport, WA was fading in into the surrounding fields and orchards, but was revived with the construction of the Chief Joseph Dam. Nestled on the outside of a bend in the Columbia River, the small single-square-mile town is home to the second…

Salmon Past and Present

The Chief Joseph Fish Hatchery, being constructed by the Colville Tribe on this site, is part of an attempt to restore not only some threatened species, but also an endangered way of life. For many native peoples of the Pacific Northwest, life…

Grand Coulee Dam

Larger than all of the Pyramids of Giza put together, this mammoth concrete structure began as a dream in a small arid Central Washington farm town. In 1918, Billy Clapp, a lawyer in Ephrata, explained to Wenatchee Daily World editor Rufus Woods,…

Mason City

In the depths of America's Great Depression, news of a huge construction project in Washington State brought a flood of unemployed men seeking jobs. The "mushroom towns of the Grand Coulee" sprouted to accommodate them. Workers arrived…

B Street

B Street was the busiest street in the Columbia River Basin during the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in the 1930s. Construction workers came to spend their money on this mud street, which featured ramshackle structures, loud music, and…

Elephant in the Desert

Even before the dam was complete, Grand Coulee attracted visitors eager to view this unique geological landscape. Once construction started on the dam, sightseers came from all over the world to witness the creation of the "Eighth Wonder of the…

A Town No More

Beneath the blue-green waters of Lake Roosevelt lie eleven drowning victims: the towns that were flooded by the rising waters behind the Grand Coulee Dam. Gifford was one of those towns. James Gifford, the town's founder, was born in 1843 in…

Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Amicitia, amor et veritas. Friendship, love, and truth were the three founding principles of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. After its founding in 1842 in Baltimore, Maryland, the fraternal order grew rapidly across the United States and around…

How the West was Watered

The landscape that lies under Lake Roosevelt today is part of a series of “benchlands,” flat regions separated by steep drops. The soil is fertile, and the nearby Columbia River provided drainage, but without a way to bring more water uphill to…

The Fishery at Kettle Falls

Beneath the placid waters of Lake Roosevelt at this location lies what was once one of the most important native sites on the Columbia plateau - Kettle Falls. For thousands of years, Indians from as far as the Great Plains would gather here each…

The Ceremony of Tears at Kettle Falls

For centuries, Kettle Falls was a fishing spot and a gathering place. When Grand Coulee Dam began construction in 1933, thousands of years of history and tradition suddenly changed. By 1940, the waters of Lake Roosevelt began to rise, slowly…

The Sharpening Stone

Set on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River approximately 350 feet north of St. Paul's Mission near Kettle Falls, WA is a natural and historic object seeming out of place amidst a landscape of dense Ponderosa pine forest. Large, off black in…

Resurrection of St. Paul's Mission

The tribes that lived near the Columbia River were enthusiastic about the "blackrobes" and their teachings. So much so that Father DeSmet, a Jesuit priest from Belgium, wrote his superiors in 1840 that he needed more priests to minister to…

Buried and Forgotten

Missionaries conducted their final service at St. Paul’s Mission on August 14, 1875. Without the stewardship of the clergymen and parishioners the building quickly fell into disrepair. But although the church was no longer in use, locals continued…

Fort Colvile

On March 26, 1821 two giant companies merged. The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), founded on May 2, 1670, bought out its largest upstart rival in the fur trading business, the North West Company. This merger had lasting effects on the fur trade in the…

The Steamboat Forty-Nine

The population of the Upper Columbia Country exploded when gold was discovered along the banks of the Columbia River and its tributaries in the early 1850s. The first gold boom, the Colville Gold Strike, drew prospective miners from all over the…

The Boundary Commission

The United States-Canadian border in the Pacific Northwest is clearly marked and border agents at defined crossing points regulate movement from one side to the other. This system is the direct result of the hard work done by the United States and…

Make Way for Rising Waters

In 1940, Congress mandated that the Bureau of Reclamation would be granted all the land that would be flooded by Lake Roosevelt, from the banks of the Columbia up to 1310 feet of elevation. But passing the bill was only the beginning. The wording…

Good Fishing on the Main Street of Marcus

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…

The City of Kettle Falls

What happened to the houses, stores, and buildings that were threatened by the rising water of Lake Roosevelt in 1941? Some were torn down and their materials reused. Some were burned. Others, if in good condition, were actually picked up and moved.…

The Late, Great Meyers Falls

In 1862 Louther Meyers arrived in Colville Valley from his home in New York state, determined to make his fortune in the west. He worked as a carpenter for homesteaders and at a flour mill on the Little Pend Oreille River near the village of Hart. By…