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Roll On Columbia - travelblog (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
I don’t think a person can be born and raised in British Columbia and not have an inkling about hydroelectric power. The province is dotted with dams of all shapes and sizes. I’d believed this was a peculiarity due to my surroundings and was pleasantly surprised when my visitor from the UK (he who must not be named) was very interested in seeing the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State.

Our first road trip seemed to be rife with C’s. Coast as in Oregon, Cascades as in mountain range (including Crater Lake) and the Columbia River. We even managed to sneak a few more C’s in when we dipped down into California and stopped at the beach in Crescent City.

When I was eleven years old, I spent a summer with friends of my folks on a farm near Revelstoke B.C. I had a fabulous time and later, when the farm was flooded because of a dam on the Columbia and the residents had to leave their beloved home, I felt badly for them. However, dams were crucial to the power demands of my province and progress was progress. The result of this dam was, of course, a huge lake. B.C. vast tracks of wilderness can sustain masses of land being submerged and usually only a few are displaced because of it. However, the impact it has on migrating fish is disastrous. That being said, other forces of man at work (and play) have depleted salmon stocks to troubling levels.

My friend from the UK had heard about the Grand Coulee Dam. He says it was a song he heard by Lonnie Donnagon which was originally sung and written by Woody Guthrie. Woody was one of my parent’s folk heroes because of his labour leanings and absolutely fabulous songs. For a month he got on board with FDR’s “New Deal” during the depression and traveled around writing songs about the glorious solution which was going to get people back to work. Woody wrote 26 songs in 30 days while in the employ of the Bonneville Power Administration, my favourite is “Roll On Columbia” sung by the Weavers.

“Roll on Columbia - Roll on.
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn.
so roll on Columbia roll on.”

The Columbia River flows through 14 dams and is still a massive river at the end of it all. It barrels through the Columbia gorge and spreads out at Astoria where there’s a bridge a mile wide! Beginning in the Canadian Rockies and gathering volume rapidly due to its tributaries. One of them, the Kootney river also has a collection of dams on it which doesn’t even come close to maximizing the power available. Without factoring in the feeders the Columbia provides 21,149 MWs (MW=megawatt) of power. The Grand Coulee dam is by far the largest of this collection.

On our first road trip we first came across the Columbia at Vancouver, Washington where it’s the state borderline. Portland, Oregon - city of bridges -, is easy to enjoy but we were bound for the Oregon coast. I managed to snap a couple of river and bridge photos, while illegally parked, after hunting up a road map. Until then, we hadn’t needed any guidance because driving the I-5 is easy and I know where the US border is. My UK companion had to go through a US entry rigmarole which isn’t required of Canadians. This reminded me how down right neighbourly America is for folks like me. Thanks again USA.

We came upon the Columbia again at Hood River Oregon and were lucky enough to find a lovely motel at The Dalles. When I travel, I try to avoid hotel/motel chains because I prefer handing over my money to local ventures but this comes with some disadvantages such as never knowing what the standards will be. The next day we crossed just up the river at The Dalles dam but damn it we missed the Sam Hill bridge because I didn't know it was close by. My plan had been to follow the Columbia up to Grand Coulee but my companion wanted to see Mount St. Helen’s so I happily obliged. Making our way back to the coast we came across windsurfers (sailboarders) who were expert enough to stay upright on the choppy waves. The other sight I’d missed in the past was the Bridge of the Gods which has a fascinating history that matches its handle. Another bonus was that I finally found a Lewis and Clark landmark. I’d bought my companion the book Sacajawea that a friend had lent me years earlier. I sure hope he enjoys it as much as I did.

Our third crossing was at Dry Falls and then we drove alongside the Columbia Basin making our way to Electric City (which really says it all) just before Grand Coulee. It was smoking hot which is normal summer weather for this part of Washington. I missed the cooler coastal temperatures but my friend was in his element. Fruit orchards are everywhere and postings for pickers were prevalent. Irrigation makes this venture feasible in the arid landscape. There were abandoned motels here and there which probably is due to RV use. We lucked out at Brewster and got the last room in the only viable motel around for miles (and miles). We left the USA Columbia at Brewster heading to the Cascades loop road through Bavarian Leavenworth and cowboy town Winthrop on our way back to Canada.

The next time we saw the Columbia was on our second road trip. We were on our way to a post wedding bash of two friends of mine. After sixteen years together they’d gotten married on June 10th in Toronto. Rather than have their B.C. friends travel to the big smoke they generously had another party. It’s not like Nelson is just next door to Vancouver but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Leaving Vancouver Friday we took infamous Highway #3 (Crowsnest) through the southern reaches of my province. It wasn’t until late afternoon when we arrived in Castlegar that we saw the river again. We took a short sidetrip to see the much smaller Keenlyside Dam. The bonus was we got to drive over it and return to our route via a different road. At one time visitors could drive over the Grand Coulee dam but no longer. Perhaps it’s one of the prices paid for heightened security?

After two nights in Nelson and a smashing good visit to the culturally diverse town in the Kootneys we left for the Rockies. I simply had to take a detour to show my friend the rapids near the smelter town of Trail. While the river was higher and most of the rocks were under water there still was some whitewater. After a romp on the rocky river shore we said farewell again to the Columbia which rolled its way south while we went eastward to the rockies and our next destination where another meeting of friends had been mapped out.

Columbia River and its Dams


Senior Member
I enjoy travelblogs. This was a great read. My boyfriend was born and raised in London - I'm moving in with him next week - and I'd love to take him on a road trip around WA and OR. We've been around the wine country in Northern California, but I'd love to take him up the coast even further.

Not sure if you wanted this to be edited at all... found two things that might bear looking at:

Penelope said:
On our first road trip we first came across the Columbia at Vancouver

Mount St. Helen’s

Questionable apostrophe?


Fantasy of You

Senior Member
I read, and read... and continued to read, waiting for the story to kick in, but it didn't. CZ said he likes it, so it might just be me, but I don't this piece. Nothing happens, it just... goes on. The writing is fine. It flows nicely and is easily followed- it's just, on a whole, there's nothing to follow.

Sorry to sound so shitty, lol. Maybe it's just me. I like suspense and conflict, and there's none here. *SIGH* I'm sure a lot of people will like it, though!

I'm not sure if this is just an English vs American thing, but..

The Dalles
Dp you mean the Dales?



side trip/ side-trip (just a nit pick, lol)

Rockies- I'm pretty sure it's Rockies, you call it 'the rockies' after all.

Sorry I couldn't be more help:(



Senior Member
Hello Penelope. Great read, little hard with all the names, but it is very good.

I noticed some things in the piece, and with all my humble knowledge I am going to offer what I know:

Penelope said:
One of them, the Kootney river also has
One of them, the Kootney river, also has...

Penelope said:
Without factoring in the feeders the Columbia provides
Without factoring in the feeders, the Columbia provides...

Penelope said:
On our first road trip we first came
Same comment as CZ. It is correct, but somehow it's confusing.

Penelope said:
I prefer handing over my money to local ventures but this comes
I prefer handing over my money to local ventures, still this comes with...

Also, you place too many parenthesis.

That is all. The story flows wonderfully and the description is very good. I love travelblogs, and this is certainly a good one.

I would like to follow the Columbia sometime...
Last edited:


Senior Member
Hey - thanks so much for the feedback. I titled this a travel blog so people would know I was trying to get my memories down before they dwindled. This was written without much attention to the finer points because I was focusing on the flow .. like talking .. ya know? ;-)