wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Storm at Coulee City

Approaching Coulee City, Washington, I was impressed that the highway seemed to be what was holding back a huge piece of water that once was part of the Columbia River system.

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To the north, Grand Coulee Dam has diverted some of the river’s water to form Roosevelt Lake to the east (not shown here) and, to the south, Banks Lake (seen here, and named for the construction supervisor at Grand Coulee Dam). At the south end of Banks Lake is the small town  of Coulee City.

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The land to the south of the highway is nearly dry, with small amounts released to form a trickle of water over what is called the Dry Falls. Banks Lake is used for irrigation of areas close by.

Way at the other end of this causeway, where Coulee City begins, is the town RV park. Just turn left at the end of the road that is holding the lake back, and you’re in the community park.

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It was a breezy day but I didn’t worry about it too much because I remembered it being quite windy in this area when we came through here last year. However, the coots that had rafted up at the far corner of the lake knew that bad weather was coming. They made sure to be in the lee of the wind, and out of reach of the coyotes that would start yipping as soon as darkness set in.

DSCN4039I remember thinking how pretty it was, parked under the branches of the Russian olive tree, right by the beach. I looked out the window in the gathering darkness and admired glimpses of the moon reflecting on the water.

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But the gusts grew stronger and the trailer shook ever more vigorously as the evening wore on and the wind rose until it was howling like a speeding freight train. Lying in bed, I wondered if we were in an earthquake.

The  Russian olive tree that I had admired earlier was now a bony fingered skeleton tapping on our trailer walls. When we ignored the tapping some of its fingers broke off and skittered across the roof. Then whole arms of the whipping tree beat on the roof and the captain said, “I’m just waiting for the wind to get into a crack and rip the skin right off the trailer. I think we should move. It might be more sheltered over by the shower buildings.”

My ego isn’t big and I can admit now that I didn’t believe there was any place to get away from this near hurricane, but I have to give credit to the captain. He stepped outside as I called from the bed, “Hold onto the door so it doesn’t rip off.” As an afterthought I added, “And don’t … get blown … away….”

A few minutes later, the captain stuck his head in the door and screamed against the wind, “You stay in bed and I’ll drive us up around the buildings.” Slam! went the door, as the wind caught it.

“Okay … ” I whimpered. I looked down at the dogs on their mats. Two sets of eyes bugging out of  furry faces looked back at me pleadingly.

I got up and cuddled one on each side of me as we bounced along in the trailer while the captain towed us to higher ground a  couple of hundred feet  away from the lake and behind a building.

When the truck engine shut down and the captain came back into the trailer, he said, “That’s better. 40 years of commercial fishing has at least taught me something about where to anchor in a storm.”


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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.