Taming the Mighty Columbia

Tour curated by: The Lake Roosevelt Partnership

The Columbia River, served as a food source and refuge 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.

Locations for Tour

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…

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,…

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…

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…

This quiet street once had a national reputation - for drunkenness and debauchery. 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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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.…

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…

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…

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…

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…