You can learn the history of the dam by stopping in at the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center (tel. 509/633-9265; www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee), open daily from 9am to 5pm (extended hours from Memorial Day through Sept). February through November, free guided tours of the dam are offered daily between 10am and 5pm. Every night between Memorial Day weekend and end of September, a 30-minute laser-light show is projected onto the face of the dam. An accompanying narration tells the history of Grand Coulee and the dam.
Lake Roosevelt, with 600 miles of shoreline, provides ample opportunities for watersports and fishing and makes up the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, 1008 Crest Dr., Coulee Dam, WA 99116 (tel. 509/633-9441 or 509/738-6366; www.nps.gov/laro). Along the shores of the lake are 17 car or walk-in campgrounds and 10 boat-in campgrounds. About 21 miles north of Davenport, at the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia rivers, stands Fort Spokane, which was built in 1880. Four of the original buildings are still standing. An 1892 brick guardhouse serves as a visitor center, though the recreation area's main visitor center is the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center right at the dam.
Some 30 miles down the Grand Coulee, just south of Coulee City on Wash. 17, you can have a look at a natural wonder that's as impressive as the dam. Dry Falls are the remains of a massive waterfall created by the same floodwaters that scoured out the Grand Coulee. At their peak flow, the waters cascading 400 feet over these falls stretched 3 1/2 miles wide (in comparison, Niagara Falls are less than 1 mile wide and less than 180 ft. tall). Between mid-May and the end of September, you can learn more about the falls and floods at the Dry Falls Visitor Center (tel. 509/632-5214; www.parks.wa.gov), at the Dry Falls Overlook on Wash. 17. This center is open Monday through Thursday from 9am to 5pm and Friday through Sunday from 8am to 6pm. If you're interested in going to the base of the cliffs that once formed the falls, continue south 2 miles to Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, which has a road leading back to the cliffs. Within this park, you'll also find a campground and lakes for swimming, boating, and fishing.
Ten miles south of Sun Lakes State Park, you'll find Lake Lenore Caves. These caves were created by the same floodwaters that carved Dry Falls. In this case, the waters tore off chunks of basalt as they flowed past the cliffs above today's Lake Lenore. The caves were later used by wandering bands of prehistoric Indians. There are seven caves accessible along an established trail. To reach the caves trail from Coulee City, take Wash. 17 south 7 miles.
Continuing south will bring you to Soap Lake, an alkaline lake named for the soapsuds that gather on its shores. For centuries, the lake has attracted people who believe the waters have medicinal properties. Once a busy health spa, Soap Lake today is a quiet little town. However, it does have a couple of good lodges where you can soak in the lake's waters. A public town beach also provides lake access.
About 25 miles south of Soap Lake lies Moses Lake, popular with water-skiers. South of Moses Lake lie the Potholes Reservoir and Columbia National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 509/488-2668; www.fws.gov/pacific/refuges/field/wa_columbia.htm). This area is a stark contrast of desert and water, with dramatic basalt outcroppings. To explore this region, drive south from Moses Lake on Wash. 17, west on Wash. 262, south on K2 SE Road (it becomes Morgan Lake Rd.), and west on Wash. 26.
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