Head of tours outlines dam's program


Scott Hunter

Ivan Snavely

It’s not just kids that ask the craziest things.

One person at the Visitor Center asked Ivan Snavely, who heads the tour program at the Grand Coulee Dam, if they built the dam from the top down, or from bottom up.

Snavely shared this question with members of the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce at The Siam Palace last Thursday as he explained what went on with the tourist program at the dam.

One of the most successful programs at the Visitor Center is the geocache adventure, in which visitors go to three sites to discover information about the area.

Geocaching uses GPS (global positioning system) devices or a smartphone to receive clues to search for hidden items and learn about clean, renewable energy in a fun way. They can return to the VC and get a prize for completing the exercise.

The three spots are at the Roosevelt bust above the dam, the end of the canal at North Dam Park and at Crown Point.

The geocache search has become so popular that it is being used at dams on the Columbia River, and the locals have even won a prize for their efforts. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Region, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chelan County Public Utility District, were honored April 23 at the 2013 National Hydropower Association annual conference in Washington, D.C.

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The agencies received the Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters Award for Public Education for their collaborative, educational “D3 Geocache Challenge,” offered at Grand Coulee Dam, Chief Joseph Dam, and Rocky Reach Dam.

“I have never been refused by the Bureau for anything that I have wanted to do,” Snavely said.

Hands-on displays at the Visitor Center from a 2006 renovation have been popular, and three films depicting different features of the dam and what has occurred since its completion are shown constantly in the theater upstairs.

A new film, showing the construction phases of the original dam and the third powerhouse, is now in Denver getting approval and will be available for showing later, Snavely stated.

In addition to the Visitor Center activity, where some 560 cars were logged in last Wednesday, the crew also provides bus tours of the dam.

Buses can handle 38 regular passengers, plus two wheelchair visitors, and go out hourly, beginning at 10 a.m. with the last bus going out at 5 p.m. every day of the week.

Tour groups, both of students and professional people, get special treatment.

“During the month of May, we had group tours every day but a couple,” Snavely told chamber members.

Grand Coulee Dam is the number-one search site for the state on the Internet, one chamber member noted. Snavely added that the dam was the number-one visitor site in Eastern Washington, and the fifth largest concrete structure in the world.

“Grand Coulee Dam is still the largest concrete structure in North America,” Snavely noted.

Four dams larger than Grand Coulee Dam are in South America, and the largest is in China.

“One of the most asked questions has to do with whether Hoover Dam is larger than Grand Coulee Dam,” Snavely noted. While it is taller, it is only about a fourth as large, he said.


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