Even while it was still under construction, Grand Coulee Dam has attracted visitors from around the world. Dam building started in 1933 and continued into 1942. During these years, the engineering marvel drew around a half million visitors each year. Decades later, fascination with major man-made structures, as well as with American history, continues to attract visitors to Grand Coulee Dam. The dam is one of several attractions along the Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway.
Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Information
The visitor center is the place to learn all about the dam and the region. It also is a great place to enjoy great Grand Coulee Dam views, either from inside the center or from the riverside park located below.
The exhibits at the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Arrival Center were updated in 2006. Topics covered include:
- how the dam was constructed
- how the dam provides irrigation and electricity
- the life of the construction workers during the dam's decade-long construction period
- the impact of the dam on local native people
- dam milestones throughout the years
A selection of films related to dam history and local geology are offered in the visitor center's theater. All of the films are excellent and informative; I particularly recommend taking in one about the ice age floods that shaped the region.
Grand Coulee Dam Tours
Tours of Grand Coulee Dam begin at the north side of the dam on the east side of the river (across the river from the Visitor Arrival Center). The hour-long tour focuses on the dam's Third Powerplant, added during the 1970s. Tours are offered from May through mid-November; for the latest information, call (509) 633-9265. The tours are free and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Grand Coulee Dam Viewpoints
The Grand Coulee dam can be viewed from a number of viewpoints on each side of the river and each side of the dam. One great dam viewpoint is located along Highway 155 between mile marker #33 and #34.
If you'd like to enjoy dam and river from a hike, the Candy Point Trail or the Down River Trail each provide great views. Another way to experience the dam is by taking the Coulee Dam Historic Walking Tour, which takes you through part of town and over the bridge, stopping at 3 city parks along the way. This walking tour starts at the visitor center.
Grand Coulee Dam Laser Show
On summer nights a free laser show is projected onto the water spilling over the dam. These days, the laser show is the only time that water is diverted from electricity generation. The show tells the story of Grand Coulee Dam, the Columbia River, and the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project, complete with sound and music. The best location to watch the laser show is from the park below the visitor center. You can see the laser show from the city parks, with the audio provided by your radio at 90.1 FM.
Grand Coulee Dam Facts and Trivia
- What is a coulee? A coulee is a deep dry ravine that was originally created by flowing water.
- Construction of Grand Coulee Dam took place from 1933 through 1942.
- Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world.
- Roosevelt Lake, the reservoir behind the dam, extends over 150 miles.
- Grand Coulee Dam is 500 feet wide at its base.