Monday, May 19, 2008


Rocky Reach Dam, Wenatchee WA

One of the places we visited while in the town of Wenatchee, WA on our recent RV trip was the Rocky Reach Dam. It is about 5 miles upriver from Wenatchee on the Columbia River and is owned by the Chelan County Public Utility District, one of three dams they own and operate. Washington State University was heavily involved in the design and development of the dam. It was built in the 1950s & 60s but is continuously being updated. Fairly recently they expanded from 7 to 11 generators and just a couple of years ago a special project was completed to assist fingerling salmon on their downriver trip to the Pacific Ocean. There are probably others that are not obvious and I am not aware of.

Rocky Reach Dam 01
This first photo shows the dam on the downriver side. The fish ladder that was built with the original construction to assist fish returning to spawn is shown at the lower part of the photo and the large pipe that has recently been finished to help the fingerlings on their journey downstream is in the upper part of the photo at the left side. The area around the dam is desert but it has been made agriculturally very productive with the addition of irrigation. Wenatchee, along with the nearby town of Chelan, has long been known for their fruit production, especially apples, although grapes have become a major competitor for that honor in recent years.

Rocky Reach Dam 02
We are looking at the upriver side of the dam. This part of the Columbia River is known as Lake Entiat. The town of Entiat is about 12 -15 miles farther upriver and part of it had to be relocated before the area was flooded by the new dam. Fishing, water skiing and other water sports are very popular in this area where they experience over 300 days of sunshine per year. It is quite hot in the summer and pretty cold in the winter. This view shows the large power lines that are on top of the dam above where the generators are located. In the near foreground is what I think is the top part of the fish ladder.

Rocky Reach Dam 03
This view shows both the fish ladder and the pipe that is part of the new fingerling way of getting downriver past the dam. It also shows a small part of the beautifully landscaped 16 acre park that is open to the public for picnics, weddings, etc.

Rocky Reach Dam 04
This is more of the fingerling pathway. This pipe, sometimes open on top, sometimes enclosed as it is here, carries water and the small fingerlings past the dam, safe from having to go through the generator turbines. You can see the outlet of this pipe in the background, where it dumps the fish into the water. There was a lot of planning that went into designing this. The outlet has been proven to not damage the small fish by dumping them into the water and the location was selected because it is a deep part of the river and also one with a fairly strong current. The current helps to keep them safer from predators, mainly pike fish and birds.

Rocky Reach Dam 05
The 11 generators are below in this very large room. You used to be able to go on a tour below but that has been canceled due to terrorism concerns. I can't remember the size of these generators, but they are pretty large. The dam was originally built with 7 generators and the 4 that were added later are each more than half again the size of each of the first 7. All together they output a lot of pollution free electrical power.

Rocky Reach Dam 06
This chart graphically shows how the dam is laid out. The generator section kind of runs in a upstream/downstream direction while the spill ways for excess water is in the background and runs across the river. You can see the fish ladder section in this view but it does not have the newer fingerling tube section.

There is a great museum that is inside the dam itself. There are three main things covered in the museum- the native people from the area, the story of the area settlers & building the dam, and a lot of info about the geology of the area, including what it was like millions of years ago and the upheavals of various types that occurred to make it what it looks like now.
Rocky Reach Dam 07
Here Pat is looking at some of the geological info displayed.

Rocky Reach Dam 08
This is a small part of the info on the native peoples of the area.

Rocky Reach Dam 09
There are a great many natives of the area and this is just another of them. Cougars are not a major part of the area but they are around. During part of the year you are a lot more likely to see a rattle snake than a cougar in this area.

Rocky Reach Dam 10
Tramway's were the first way of getting goods across the Columbia River, other than boats & barges. The first bridge build was the railroad bridge but when the RR first came to the area, it's cars were transported across on barges. The first auto bridge is still there but it is used only as a way to moving fresh water from the Wenatchee side to the dryer East Wenatchee side, and as a pedestrian & bicycle route across the river. There are at least two good auto bridges within the Wenatchee town boundaries. This photo shows an example of one of those early tramway's.

Rocky Reach Dam 11
Rocky Reach Dam has become a very popular tourist spot so of course it has to have a gift shop & cafe. This pleasant lobby is just inside the entrance way and offers a nice mural as well as a glass wall to look out at the dam while you are enjoying food. And, they do make a pretty good mocha!

Rocky Reach Dam 12
Here is a part of the view outside the dining lobby. Those outside tables are a good place to eat when it isn't either too cold or too hot ourdoors.

If you visit this area, I strongly recommend this as a tour that is well worth your time. And it is free, unless you buy something in the gift shop or cafe. Our mochas were favorably priced. The campground we stayed in, Lincoln Rock State Park, is located just upriver from the dam on the east side of the river. It is necessary to drive about 5 miles to the freeway bridge across the river, then back upriver to the dam entrance, as there is no vehicle traffic across it.

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My husband and I used to love our roadtrips. Now, I enjoy seeing all the pictures you post of your trips with pat.
Wonderful indeed!

catmoma :o)
That looks like a really interesting (and pretty) place to visit Dick, great shots!
Kinda neat. Why haven't you updated the section "about me" to reflect that you're married? Are you retired military?
You two are having way too much fun! Nice photos!!
Thank you for all your information on Rocky Reach Dam. The pictures are beautiful and your site was very helpful to me. We are having a family reunion there and I was wondering where my family was going to stay. We will be traveling from Yelm WA. You are a blessing!
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