Monday, October 24, 2011

End of the Line for Canals: Waterslides and Waterfalls

The irrigated areas of eastern Washington are laced with canals. Most of the canals follow the contours of the land to transport water to farm fields. Occasionally an aqueduct, tunnel or siphon is used to get water across an obstruction too difficult or expensive to route around. But eventually the canal comes to an end. I recently took a trip into the southern part of the Columbia Basin Project and came across the end of several canals that are at the lower part of the Columbia Basin Project. Some of these canals end in a manner that will be for a future post, but others send water back to the Columbia River via concrete lined slides and waterfalls. Water originally pulled from the river at Grand Coulee is returned to the river.

The first canal looks like a spectacularly speedy water slide; however......

View up the canal looks like great fun

View at the bottom looks very exciting

Perhaps would be best to enjoy the plunge pool without taking the ride

The second canal is a narrower more individual affair; however...

View up the canal from bridge
This ride includes dips

View down to the end looks like a bit of a drop

A really bad ending

By the way the splash pool of this canal has created a nice exposure of the conglomerate unit of the Ringold Formation.

Canal number three has a nice long straight run and is not so steep. This canal follows a valley carved down from a Missoula flood channel, Koontz Coulee, that has been irrigated.

View up the canal slide

The ending on this one is not a vertical drop
The pool was chaotic whitewater but I failed to take a good picture of it

This same canal continued to another drop.

This slide had baffles that would beat the heck out of anyone that would try running it.

I lived in this area during that period of one's age when one did compulsive and flat out stupid things. But I will say I never tried any of the slides. Nor did I know anyone that did. I am not sure anyone was reckless enough. There were always plenty of stories about kids getting killed and warning signs about the dangers. And besides we had plenty of other places to swim. I will add that this was prior to pesticide restrictions and at the early stages of the Clean Water Act and the canals did not have a great reputation as clean places.

A while back I worked on a canal project where we set up a monitoring scheme for tracking wildlife that tried to cross the canal systems. The canals had little side bays with steps so animals that fell in could get out. One idea was to properly locate the escape sites so that by the time the trapped animal reached the escape site it was not too exhausted. Of course another idea was to locate bridges at key crossing locations used by animals. In areas where the escape steps were not property located, animals would die and then float down the canal where they would accumulate at debris gates.   


David Hopkinson said...

Dan, your virtual tours of the state are wonderful.

As a teen, my reckless buddies and I squeezed through a chain-link fence to swim in a very large reservoir just outside of the other Washington, (D.C.). It was a quiet, peaceful place like nothing else easily available to us, a nature reserve which we had all to ourselves.

Dan McShane said...

My brother pointed out all the other dangerous swinmming holes I took him to.

Ally said...

Cool post, Dan. I grew up swimming in the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, TX where there are many water chutes and small dams -- you photos reminds me of those.

Jake said...

Hey Dan, any chance you could pinpoint any of these on a google maps? I've been trying to find stuff exactly like this! If so you can email me at

Thank you!