When the Grand Coolee Dam was built on the Columbia River in 1941, 11 small towns disappeared and Lake Roosevelt was born.
The lake named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt now extends 130 miles up the Columbia River Gorge. It offers boating, fishing, camping, swimming, and relaxation in a protected and beautiful environment.
This area has a long and rich American Indian history. In 1855, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians in Oregon refused to sign a treaty with settlers. When gold was discovered on Nez Perce lands, the U.S. Army threatened to forcibly move Chief Joseph’s tribe. The tribe began the move to their reservation. However, several Nez Perce men angered by their forced removal from their homelands and by the murder of one Nez Perce man’s father by a white man responded by killing four white settlers. Fear of retaliation by the U.S. Army spurred the Nez Perce to head to Canada.
Caught before they reached the border, Chief Joseph and his people were exiled to Oklahoma. Years later, they were moved to the Colville Reservation, near Lake Roosevelt. Chief Joseph died and is buried there.
Fort Spokane, located above the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers, also figures in local American Indian history. Established in 1880 as an army outpost, the fort was later converted into a boarding school for American Indian youth and a hospital for patients with tuberculosis. Baptizing American Indians was a primary activity at St. Paul’s Mission, located and Kettle Falls. It is the oldest Catholic mission still standing in Washington.
The mile-long Grand Coulee Dam is the biggest hydroelectric power plant in the nation. A museum at the dam explains how it was built, and what happened to the towns and people it displaced.