wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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The Similkameen River

The Similkameen River flows east a long way from the mountains of E.C. Manning Park in British Columbia, to the *Okanagan fruit growing area in southern BC, where it turns south into the United States to  become the *Okanogan River south of Oroville, and from there to the mighty Columbia River which then flows west again to the Pacific while it forms the border between Oregon and Washington for much of the way between them.

*Okanagan (Canadian spelling)

*Okanogan (American spelling)

It can be a bit of a flood plain  in parts.

Does the river follow the highway, or does the highway follow the river?

 

Every time the highway bends,

And I’ve thought the river ends,

Then I see it once again,

Flowing past the rough terrain.

 

“Faithful follower, that you be,

Following me past rock and tree,

And you have so far to go.”

Says the river, “That I know.”

 

“I will twist and I will turn,

Shores of shrubbery and fern,

Gurgling over rocky places,

Where the little whitefish races.”

 

“Past the mountains and the streams,

Past the vineyards of my dreams,

I will hurry to the states,

Where the huge Columbia waits.”

 

“All together we will flow,

And we’ll put on quite a show.

At the western ocean shore,

You won’t know me anymore.”

 

“In the water system’s grasp,

Plunging in has made me gasp,

Sorry I’m not more specific,

But I’m in the great Pacific.”

 

 

 


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A New Route

Along this straight, and seemingly endless highway northwest of Spokane, Washington, we pulled into a rest stop where the Captain asked a trucker about Omak. It turns out we’ve been taking the long route for the last ten years.

 

Following the trucker’s advice, we traveled home via Grand Coulee Dam rather than via the smaller Coulee City at the south end of the reservoir created by the dam. The road winds down to where the Columbia River is dammed at Grand Coulee.

To the east of the dam is Roosevelt Lake (formed by the water that the Grand Coulee Dam has backed up).

Here we see the eastern side of the dam.

Here is the western side of it, with the water much lower.

Beyond the dam and the pretty town of Grand Coulee, the road continues on towards Omak, in the Okanogan fruit growing region of Washington State. The fall colours are a treat to see. BTW, did you know that in Canada we spell it Okanagan, while in the States it is spelled Okanogan?

We arrive in Omak in plenty of time to deal with a few trailer issues we would face.

It is very dry in this part of the state, except for the areas where water is provided by the Columbia River. We don’t mind that, as long as the temperatures are milder than in the places we’ve left behind.

 


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The Columbia

The Okanogan River flows south from northern Washington State, providing irrigation for thousands of acres of fruit trees and vineyards. In the photo below, you can see how the river widens and becomes part of the Columbia River system.DSCN4009

Now things get serious. Chief Joseph Dam, one of many dams on the Columbia, changes the flow and taps into the energy of this mighty river. Whether it is because of water licences or some other reason unknown to me, the orchards and vineyards suddenly become scarcer, and the land on the east side of  the Columbia River is semi-arid desert. Cattle graze there, and a few small farms dot the landscape, but the great expanses of fertile land are no longer a part of the scenery as we drive eastward.

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Note the arid land beyond the dam. It is a place for scrubby plants, coyotes, and rattlesnakes. No more lush orchards.

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My advice – buy your bag of apples before you reach the confluence of the Okanogan and the Columbia.


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A Crack in the Dam

On our way home from Montana, we usually take I-90 West from Spokane to Seattle and then follow I-5 north to the Canada-US border. 136 miles east of Seattle we stay at a very nice campsite on the Columbia River at Wanapum State Park.

It’s a lovely bit of greenspace in an otherwise dry scrubland. Approaching on I-90 from the east, we turn left for the state park, while to the right is a very neglected private campsite, picturesque but in disrepair.

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This year when we stopped at the state park, we had a surprise. We had no idea that the dam that is just to the south of the park on the Columbia River had a crack in it and Wanapum State Park had been closed since April of this year.

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See the dam on the far right, above? Click on the link to read the news story of the crack in the dam. Click on the follow up story here.

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The  photo above was taken in 2013.  The potential power behind this weight of water is mind-boggling.

This year’s photo below shows a much lower water level. The lower level was meant to take pressure off the 2-inch crack that ran along the dam for 65 feet.

Apparently, the release of pressure helped the crack to come together again and repairs are being made. Meanwhile, for the safety of the boating and camping public, the state park and access to the boat launching areas had to be closed.

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It was quite a shock to see the Columbia River so low here. A lot of shoreline that I had never seen before, was exposed.

We hope the repairs will be done as expected by next fall. We look forward to staying at this little oasis again.