The energy crisis has focused attention on hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Gorge, yet these facilities provide not only a major power source but also flood control and navigation.
Bonneville Lock & Dam
Cascade Locks, OR 97014
A national historic landmark, Bonneville was the first dam on the Columbia River; it was completed under the Roosevelt administration in 1937, and allowed ocean-going vessels to navigate upriver by inundating the treacherous Cascade rapids.
The main visitor center is located on Bradford Island, accessible by taking Exit 40 from Interstate 84. A separate Washington Shore Visitor Complex is at the north end of the second powerhouse off Washington Highway 14. Both visitor centers feature fish ladders and counting stations.
Nearby attractions include the Fort Cascades Historic Site and Trail on the Washington side downstream from the dam, Bonneville Fish Hatchery on the Oregon side at Exit 40, fishing areas, boat ramps, hiking trails, and overnight RV parking on the Washington side (no hookups). Bonneville Dam impounds Lake Bonneville, a 48-mile reservoir.
The Dalles Lock & Dam
The Dalles, OR 97058
Completed in 1957, this is the largest US Army Corps project on the Columbia. The dam is located 192 miles upstream from the mouth of the Columbia River, two miles east of the City of The Dalles.
The powerhouse is nearly half a mile long, with 22 generators for a total capacity of 1.8 million kilowatts - enough electricity to supply two cities the size of Portland. There are two fish ladders, fish viewing, a display of Native American petroglyphs salvaged prior to the dam's completion, a navigation lock, and a tour train.
Another nearby attraction, separate from the dam but an integral part of the BPA distribution system, is the Celilo Converter Station just south of The Dalles off Highway 197. This facility converts alternating current from Columbia River dams to direct current for long distance transmission to California. The Dalles Dam impounds Lake Celilo, a 24-mile-long reservoir. To reach the visitor center, take Exit 87 from Interstate 84 and head north on Highway 197, or head south on Hwy. 197 from Wash. Hwy. 14.
John Day Dam
Rufus, OR 97058
John Day Dam is located 25 miles upstream from The Dalles, crossing the Columbia near Rufus, OR, just below the mouth of the John Day River.
When completed in 1971, the dam contained the second-largest powerhouse in the world; with additional generators, the dam has the potential of producing 2.7 million kilowatts of power. Current capacity is 2.2 million kilowatts, enough to supply two cities the size of Seattle. A primary function of this dam is also flood control. Its reservoir, Lake Umatilla, can be lowered to provide capacity for half a million acre-feet of water during periods of high runoff. Lake Umatilla extends 76 miles east of John Day, to the base of McNary Dam.
Facilities include Giles French Park, fish viewing room and visitors' gallery on the Oregon side of the river. Access to the dam is from Interstate 84 at Exit 109.