Want to watch better-quality PBS Video? Sign in to access HD streaming!
Eight years after beginning construction, the Grand Coulee Dam was dedicated in front of a crowd of 8,000 on March 22, 1941. The dam's success created an insatiable demand for electricity, and the dam, along with others that were erected on the Columbia in the years following, served as the fuel for the growth of the metropolitan areas of the American West.
The biggest challenge in building Grand Coulee Dam was diverting the flow of the Columbia. To make this happen, the workers had to build cofferdams, temporary structures that keep the river at bay, allowing workers to dig out the mud and expose the granite bedrock on which the dam would rest. The west side cofferdam was completed on March 23, 1935. Soon after, the water level rose 32 feet.
Construction of Grand Coulee Dam had a significant effect on the lives of the Colville Indians. In 1940, seven years into the construction of the dam, the reservoir behind the dam (Lake Roosevelt) began to fill. The water level rose rapidly, submerging around 18,000 acres of land in the Colville Reservation -- inundating homes, ancient fishing spots, and historic cemeteries.
Upgrade Your Viewing Experience
This video is available to CallSign viewers with a Passport account. Passport gives you access to a wealth of premium content not previously available online, including full seasons of your favorite shows.