School finished up on Friday and on Saturday I spent most of the day playing in band for the three different graduation ceremonies Washington State now goes through (up from two last year). I was ready to get out of town for a while and decided to drive up to Grand Coulee Dam and the confluence point at 48N 119W which was only a few miles away. It's always nice to have someone else along to keep me awake when I am driving as well as to give me a chance not to drive, so I got ahold of Leslie to see if she was interested in going and she was.

Getting from Pullman to Grand Coulee is not very difficult. Taking the most direct route gives one the opportunity to see a number of Eastern Washington towns which most people might consider fairly small. These included Steptoe, St. John, Ewan, Sprague, Harrington, Davenport, Wilber, Grand Coulee, and Coulee Dam among others. They looked like nice towns to me, for the most part (though they were lacking a view of the ocean). There were also a number of ponds/wetlands along the way with a wide variety of birds. Leslie said that one time when she had been along this road it was actually flooded over. No such luck on this day, however. Between Wilbur and Grand Coulee there was a combination of desert and farms which (I am guessing) are sustained in the desert by water from Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, the resevoir which was created by the Grand Coulee Dam. The desert was full of sagebrush and lupine in full bloom. They were not so thick as to make the hillsides look completely blue, but they were definitely noticable.

Grand Coulee and Coulee Dam are very close and I am not sure why they are considered different towns. Grand Coulee is on the upriver side of the dam while Coulee Dam is just below the dam. It seemed like every house we drove by in Coulee Dam had an impeccably manicured and landscaped yard. Keeping a fancy yard up does not really seem worth the effort to me, so I found myself wondering how come pretty much everyone (at least along the main road) made the effort here. As it turned out, we did not actually have to drive through Coulee Dam at all I realized this when we got to Elmer City and were at 48N but were quite a bit east of the confluence point. So we drove back through Coulee Dam and headed north on the west side of the river instead.

Not too far north of Grand Coulee there is a place called Crown Point Vista. If you want to see a pretty good view of Grand Coulee Dam, this is a good place to go. The picture I took of Grand Coulee Dam was taken from Crown Point Vista. There is also an interesting informational sign which has a sketch of the dam as well as other well known large things (for example, Niagra Falls and the Statue of Liberty) so that a comparison can be made to see just how large the dam is.

Getting to 48N 119W is not difficult from Crown Point Vista. There is a dirt road which splits off of the road to Crown Point Vista and heads north. The confluence point is very close to the road (the closest of any of the confluence points I have visited so far) about 2 miles from where you turn off onto the dirt road. Leslie thought it seemed pretty loony to go out looking for these confluence points and I must say that I agree. It does seem a bit crazy to spend time and effort going out to find these points which depend only upon our fairly arbitrary means of talking about where things are on this planet. However, I think that I will continue to visit confluence points because it is an excuse to visit places which I would have no reason to visit otherwise. I am not much into sightseeing in general, but this is a quirky form of sightseeing that I find appealing (perhaps because of it involves maps, gadgets, and numbers).

This government site includes a good overview of the dam's statistics and history.
A local site which has information about recreation and tourist opportunities.
Grand Coulee Dam
GPS at 47N 118W
Looking South
Looking East
Looking West
Looking North

Home | Summer 2000