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 World" including two visits from President Roosevelt and one from President Truman. With the advent of the automobile, caravans of cars flocked to the Inland Empire, some driving over 700 miles out of their way to view what a few called the "white elephant in the desert". Promised to rival Niagara Falls, the Grand Coulee Dam attracted thousands of tourists a year while still under construction.

In a matter of years, what was once a sparsely populated desert became a top tourist stop. As construction began in 1933, MWAK, the company contracted to build the dam, built the Vista House to accommodate the increasing number of onlookers. The favorite attraction is watching the water spill over dam in the spring. In the 1950s the dam was illuminated with colored lights for nighttime visitors. Today, in the spring and summer months, the gates are opened at night and visitors are treated to a laser light show while the water flows over the dam.

The current Visitor's Center was part of the Third Powerhouse addition in the late 1970s. The design makes tourists feel like they are standing inside one of the generator rotators. Inside, there are exhibits on the dams origins, construction, and outputs, including videos about the dam itself and the geological forces that made this man-made wonder possible.



Woody Guthrie and The Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done
The federal government hired Woody Guthrie to produce some songs about the Columbia River. ~ Source: Music from Woody Guthrie courtesy of the Department of the Interior. ~ Creator: Logan Camporeale
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