Friday, August 10, 2012

A Visit to the Grand Coulee Dam -- a HUGE Structure

While we traveled the Coulee Scenic Corridor, we naturally wanted to touch base with one of the star attractions of the highway, the Grand Coulee Dam. 

 Above the dam lies  Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake which stretches north some 150 miles to the Canadian border. The lake is named for President Franklin Roosevelt who championed the huge project

 This huge body of water is used for both electricity generation that serves the entire northwest area as well as irrigation for some 640,000 acres. The lake is impressive, but pales somewhat to the huge structure of the dam.

Below the dam, we got the full view of the enormous concrete project. Utilizing some 12,000,000 cubic yards of concrete, which we learned is equal to a 4' wide sidewalk going around the world -- twice! That is a lot of concrete!

 In fact, there was so much concrete poured that cooling the concrete was a real challenge as the material naturally gives off heat while setting. To control this, some 2,000 miles of cooling pipe was installed and cold river water was run through it.

 The huge construction project required all kinds of skilled workers, including divers who worked well below the surface. Orinda was interested in trying this line of work out and is thinking about applying if they should need more divers in the future.

 One of the most interesting things to Rick was the way the dam was constructed. Here, the slide rule is shown, which was the primary mathematical tool (other than the engineer's mind) used to build the dam. No computers, calculators or other modern tools used here!

The 550' high dam is a marvel of engineering and stretches over a mile across the Grand Coulee, which means large valley (from the French language). The dam is now over 70 years old and is still generating huge amounts of electricity and irrigating amazing land areas. While a bit out of the way, the dam is very well worth a visit!

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