Boundary Dam Is Power In Action

METALINE FALLS, Wash. — If you head north from Spokane toward the Canadian border, there is a free adventure for your family not far off the main drag.

“It’s 17 stories high,” boasts Gary Baird.

Baird is talking about the Boundary Dam, he’s the Chief Hydroelectric Operator there. The dam is nestled in the Selkirk Mountain foothills. In fact you can see Canada from the top of the dam, a major power source for Washington.

“We provide about 40-percent of Seattle’s total power,” said Baird.

The center of the dam and the visitor center sit deep inside a limestone cavern.

“It’s an underground powerhouse and you don’t get to see those everyday,” he says.

Through the windows of the visitor center you can see the core of the dam’s operations, six hydroelectric generators that create the power.

“Your water sprinkler that you water your lawn with, that’s a reaction turbine,” explained Baird. “This is the same theory only we’re dealing with a whole lot more water.”

Once that water creates the energy, it travels up high voltage wires along the side of the mountain next to the twin arched dam.

“Twin arch means its curved in both directions,” says Baird. “If you were standing on the top of the dam you’d be standing 50 feet down street from the base of the dam.”

That base is where you want to be to see when there is more water than they need.

“It’s worth coming to see if we are spilling, it’s a 90-foot drop.” he said.

A sight you only get to see about every other year, otherwise the water on the top reservoir sits calmly, providing a great place for water sports or swimming.

There is a small campsite right next to that top reservoir. It and some primitive campsites on the east side of the river are available for camping. Free tours at the dam run Thursday through Monday until Labor Day weekend.