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American Road Magazine
Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!

Grand Coulee Dam Overflowing!

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Sheila and I just returned from a mini road trip, that thanks to American Road Magazine, turned out to be another great two lane adventure. We planned to meet friends in Ellensburg, Washington, and visit Lake Chelan, which we did. But we couldn't decide what to do after we left Lake Chelan. Thanks to the Coulee Corridor banner ad on the forum, we decided to drive the corridor from Grand Coulee Dam south to Ephrata.


We visited the famous Grand Coulee dam in the late 1940's and it has been all these years since I have again seen water coming over the top! I suppose our few visits in the last 60 plus years have been in the summer when the level of the lake wasn't as high. It brought back memories, but an even bigger surprise awaited when today I revisited some old Kodachrome slides Dad took back then.


Being an old road guy, I took a video driving across the bridge that is downstream from the dam. It was no great masterwork, so I didn't plan to include it in the post. But as it turns out, I accidentally captured the site of one of the old Kodachrome shots.


I had to mess with the Kodachrome photo quite a bit as it was both faded and over exposed, but thanks to Corel's Photo PaintShop Pro (my favorite editor), I pulled out the shot of me, my aunt and uncle, and my sister, taken about 1949. I plucked a frame from the video for comparison...a "Deja View" for sure! And an amazingly lucky shot, considering it was just happenstance. BTW, here is the movie....MOVIE


The comparison is unmistakable, but Dad had a 50 mm lens on his Kodak 35mm camera and my lens was a 28mm for the video, so perspectives are different. But look at the detail, including the break in the curb. I had no idea I was taking a video of a place I had stood over 60 years ago. I didn't even remember the old Kodachrome, but what a kick.







The other shots are taken from various perspectives around the dam. The one with the insert gives some idea of the size of the dam. I have been on top, inside, and below Grand Coulee, Bonneville, and Boulder, and when Grand Coulee has water coming over the top, it wins the "most impressive" vote.












The drive down the Grand Coulee is beautiful and always impressive. You drive along Banks Lake much of the way, and are enclosed in massive cliffs on both sides.






And Dry Falls is always spectacular. The evidence of the massive Missoula Floods is everywhere. Unfortunately, mother nature decided to cloud up and rain on us at Coulee City and southward, so up went the top, and we whizzed past lots of otherwise interesting stops. But it was a great day.


Keep the Show on the Road!



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Agree totally, all I can add is "Dam!" B)


The "then and now" is simply awesome--I guess, according to the current lack of a posted prohibition, one CAN stop now!


At my point in life sometimes you get a little jaded (been there, done that). It is nice to be impressed, and seeing Grand Coulee with that massive flow of water over the spillway was impressive. The roar at the base is deafening.


As for the bridge, it was total happenstance that I pointed the video camera toward the dam as we crossed, and accidentally caught a place where I had stood 60 plus years ago. Then to find the photo I had long forgotten was also a surprise.


Sheila noted the Don't Stop sign in the old photo as well. I suppose there is some caution today at the end of the bridge saying no stopping, but you would be putting your life at risk to stop anyway, with the speed folks drive over the bridge.


The bridge looks a lot newer in the old photo. No surprise there! I suppose it was built about the same time as the dam.


My uncle Joe was dressed in the vacation attire of the period......suit, tie, and fedora. He was a railroad blacksmith by trade so he didn't dress up too often. I didn't recall he and my aunt had joined us at the dam, but photos didn't lie back then! And speaking of photos, Kodachrome back then had an ASA (film speed) of 10. Your typical point and shoot digital will be set about 100 - 400, and top out at 1600 or more. It isn't just headgear that has changed!


Thanks for the comeback!




Keep the Show on the Road!

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Great shots - I'd like to point out the gentleman in the suit and tie. I don't know if he was on a business trip, but I doubt it. Different time, different dress code. People dressed when they went out, be it business or travel. I can remember my dad, on our trips from Maine to Ohio wearing a suit and tie - in the middle of the summer. Yes, he might take off the jacket and loosen the tie, but if we stopped somewhere, be it a diner for a meal or to check into a cabin for the night, but tie was fixed and the jacket back on.



Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

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