it’s a big dam country — day 1

I’m out to prove that it’s a big dam country.

This morn­ing start­ed out rainy in Duvall.

heading out
head­ing out

Made the first route call based on which dam I want­ed to see. Grand Coulee, very cool, very big, but I’ve Seen It.

So I chose a new (to me) dam whose name I liked. Priest Rapids Dam near Desert Aire, WA.

But first there was the pass to get over. Bleh. Heavy rain, mas­sive road spray and Wash­ing­to­ni­an’s who can’t seen to fig­ure out that if the wipers have to be on dou­ble march maybe turn­ing on the headlights/tail lights would be a good idea. The rain turned to sprin­kles around Cle Elum and stopped around Ellensburg.

First dam of the day — Wana­pum Dam on the Colum­bia Riv­er north of Bev­er­ly WA. There’s nice inter­pre­tive cen­ter fea­tur­ing exhibits about the Wana­pum culture.

wanapum dam
wana­pum dam

There’s also a pic­nic area and this odd rem­nant bit of a gen­er­a­tor(?) There is a ton of red/silver tat­tle tape on thin wires strung across the riv­er just down stream of the dam. Have no idea what for…

Down 243 to Desert Aire. Ummm, what can I say. The Real­tor on the bill­board out­side of town would like to sell you a place in Palm Springs too bad he’s in Desert Aire. Had a pass­able ham and cheese on rye at the Sand­trap Lounge and start­ed out for the next dam.

Unlike Wana­pum you can’t get past the first gate at Priest Rapids.

priest rapids dam
priest rapids dam

I got a bunch of shots from near the gate and then head­ed back up the hill to the highway.

along the dike wall at priest rapids dam
along the dike wall at priest rapids dam

Stopped at the top to catch a few more and got the fright of a life­time. Buzzed — low — by this.

yikes what was that?
yikes what was that?

(Click on it to see a much larg­er ver­sion — What Was That??)

He flew over going east, rolled up long the hill line and came back around. Buzzed me again. Head­ed to the hills and slid up and over and back down out of sight. Crim­iny. Maybe I should­n’t be tak­ing unau­tho­rized dam pictures…

Trun­dled down 24240 through Han­ford — that’s a des­o­late stretch of land. Scary signs too.

At Pas­co I had to make a deci­sion. Start on a tour of Hwy 12 by head­ing down to Wal­lu­la. Take 124 east through Eure­ka and Prescott to hit 12 at Wait­es­burgh. (no point in that one) or head up the Pas­co-Kahlo­tus road and try to find the Low­er Mon­u­men­tal Dam on the Snake Riv­er. It’s a long lone­ly trip up that way… So that’s what I did.

Knew I’d made the right choice when I man­aged to get this shot by just stop­ping in the mid­dle of the damn road.

red barn
red barn


To get to the dam you make a right turn in the mid­dle of nowhere and fall off the edge of the earth into a canyon.

There are lots of these odd blocks of rock.


Whee. There’s a nice lit­tle park (and privy) near the riv­er. Not much to the pho­tos though. The road across the dam is now closed and you can’t get to the down riv­er side at all.

portion of the lower monumental dam
por­tion of the low­er mon­u­men­tal dam

Arrived in Kahlo­tus and made a right turn onto 260. Made anoth­er right in the mid­dle of nowhere onto 261 and head­ed to Star­buck. Here I learned two things.

1- GPS don’t con­sid­er card­lock fuel sta­tions to be gas sta­tions and do not show them in their lists. Pan­ic!!! The near­est gas is in Con­nell? 35 miles west(!)of here? Feh. Not to wor­ry because:

2- Every lit­tle tee­ny burg in the west has a card­lock and they all take cred­it cards. And they only have 87 octane, off-road diesel, and on-road diesel. I did not have the nerve to ask the guy fill­ing the road grad­er with off-road diesel if that was legal.

Okay and a third thing 261 is one of the best unknown roads I have ever been on. Long gen­tle sweeps with awe­some views and some seri­ous­ly wicked twisty bits that make your lunch ask for a tick­et on anoth­er bus.

From Star­buck a left onto Hwy 12 and I’m head­ed into the last hour of the day. And the first cop. Me, I’m doing 62 in a 60 and nod polite­ly as he goes by the oth­er direc­tion. La, la, la. WTF he’s in my mir­ror with his blinky lights going. Crap — there’s no one out here but me. I pull over. He pulls over. Dude pops right out of the car so fast I’ve bare­ly got the win­dow down.  “License, reg­is­tra­tion, insur­ance.” I’m com­plete­ly clue­less where this is going.  “Where’s your front plate?” Oh both­er. I fum­ble some­thing about I nev­er got one from the sell­er and yes sir I’ll look into it just as soon as I get home. Some more lec­tur­ing and then “I’ll just give you a warning.”

Catch and release. I guess.

Saw signs for two more dams that I’ll have to grab some oth­er trip. The Lit­tle Goose Dam and the Low­er Gran­ite Dam.

Did find this lit­tle odd­i­ty. The pil­lar is obvi­ous­ly hol­low and the lit­tle vent fan on the top was mer­ri­ly spin­ning in the breeze. What exact­ly it is sig­nal­ing and to whom I do not know…

solar powered anttena for something
solar pow­ered anten­na for something


Time to quit for the night… Besides it was start­ing to rain again.

Map here:

About the Author

Lara Harriger


  1. Win­dow down???
    Front plate?!?!
    I thought you were doing this tour on a BIKE! 🙁

    Oh both­er!” said Poo, as he stuffed the next sev­ered head into the burlap sack… ready to hurl the lot of them over the edge of the damn, into the rolling waters below.

  2. gooz

    that was an intrud­er. viet­nam era bomber and elint air­craft. (see flight of the intrud­er). 260 to 261is the best stretch of road in cen­tral WA and well known to the WL CtS crowd. you should’ve tak­en the low­er gran­ite dam. it’s open until 5p on fri­days and you can cross it. 

    high­ly rec­om­mend the spi­ral hwy!!!


  3. blogadmin

    Um — while the State of Wash­ing­ton has seen fit to issue me a license to com­mit 2‑wheeled may­hem that does not mean that I am actu­al­ly capa­ble of said. But it’s a real­ly cool car. (Hangs head in shame.)

  4. Robbie

    Depend­ing on where the lit­tle silo/shack could be a radio nav-aid. There are a gazil­lion of them in the back of beyond — of var­i­ous kinds — and some of them have wind and/or solar back-up power.

  5. Rob

    Gooz is on the right track. It’s the cur­rent 4‑seat elec­tron­ic jamming/radar killing ver­sion of the A6 Intrud­er: the EA6B Prowler. The whole west coat fleet of them is based in Oak Har­bor on Whid­bey Island.

  6. gwen

    East­ern Wash­ing­ton has some sur­pris­es that is for sure! I have a place in Desert Aire, near Mat­tawa, and we see the jet’s doing prac­tice all the time, its pret­ty cool. Check out more info on the area at; http:/

    Thanks for the post, looks like you were rid­ing in style.

    1. lara

      I’m of two minds about approv­ing these sorts of com­ments. Gwen includ­ed a link to a pitch page for the devel­op­ment. On the oth­er hand the stuff in the His­to­ry of Desert Aire sec­tion is pret­ty inter­est­ing. So here for your use is a link to the inter­est­ing bits. http://​www​.deser​taire​to​day​.com/​d​e​s​e​r​t​_​a​i​r​e​_​h​i​s​t​o​r​y​.​php

      I reserve the right to change my mind about approv­ing com­ments from peo­ple I don’t know.

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