Columbia River - Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake in the Okanogan Highlands


Columbia River drainage map
The Columbia River is the fourth-largest water flow by volume in North America, and the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. With a source in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada as its source this mighty river has a 1,243 mile run to the North Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon.  An interesting fact is that the Columbia and the Kootenay start just a mile apart in an area known as Canal Flats. The Columbia flows northwest and the more Kootenay begins it’s journey flowing southeast. And thus they both continue until there is more than 700 miles separating them before both rivers make a big bend turn and begin a meandering approach toward each other again. The town of Castelgar, B.C. is located near the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, which meet at river mile 770 on the Columbia. By this point in the Selkirk Mountains the Columbia has worked it’s way into the northeastern portion of the Okanogan Highlands geologic region.

Looking SSE on the approach to the Northport Bridge
into the riverside town of Northport in Stevens County, 
Washington State, U.S.A.
749 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, and 449 miles below it’s source, the mighty Columbia River crosses the international border between the U.S.A. and Canada. For its first 150 miles in the United States, the Columbia forms the reservoir behind The Grand Coulee DamGrand Coulee Dam splitting the region of the Okanogan Highlands into east and west areas. This blog will take an indepth look at this well known river in that first 150 mile stretch in the United State and an impound body of water known formally as Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake. 
The lower reaches of China Bend on the Columbia River seen from 
WA State Highway 25 south of Northport WA.
Due to the nature of a reservoir there are periods of time, during draw-down of Lake Roosevelt, that the Columbia River south of the town the town of Northport, WA.
of is free flowing for a number of miles. 



Kettle River Canyon

After meandering many miles through the Monashee Mountains, bending around the northern reaches of the Kettle River Range and crossing the international border three times the Kettle River Canyon (gorge) at the mouth of the river and it’s junction with Lake Roosevelt in the Columbia River Valley mark the end of this unique water-flow. The associated image captures the river during the annual draw-down of the lake exposing the canyon submerged by the impeded waters behind the Grand Coulee Dam.
Hays Island Teepees


During the draw-down of Roosevelt Lake behind Grand Coulee Dam, local members of the Colville Confederated Tribes stake ownership on their ancient camp and gathering site, which is normally submerged under the lake. This ceremonial is located at a historically significant location where native tribes from throughout the Pacific Northwest gathered to fish, trade, and council. A month after this image the water level is 30' above this island. For more info see: Native Americans begin "Ceremony of Tears" for Kettle Falls on June 14, 1940


Kettle Falls bridge during low water draw-down
Under the Twin Bridges near Kettle Falls WA.  The twin bridges (highway and railroad) span the northern reaches of Lake Roosevelt on the Columbia River. During annual draw-down of water behind Grand Coulee Dam, the Columbia River flows under the bridges where normally the lake prevails.
Kettle Falls bridge north toward Hayes Island and Marcus Flat

National Park Service - Kettle Falls launch ramp
The reservoir of Lake Roosevelt reaches 'full pool' at 1290 feet above sea level (1,400 feet below the elevation of the source of the river at 2,690'). Annual draw-down can drop that lake level by 70 vertical feet limiting access, exposing lake bed soils, and radically changing habitat. This reduction in water is part of the primary flood control for the lower Columbia River


These towering chalk cliffs across the lake from the mouth of the Colville River, along the shores of Lake Roosevelt, are fair-weather home for thousands of migrating swallows. Unstable cliffs like this are in an accelerated erosional stage as the man-made lake continues to alter the natural environment, now approaching 75 years since impoundment. 


Look to the north end of the lake, eastern shore, just south of the Colville River, near the town of Kettle Falls to find the Ricky Point Sail Club buoy field. The Rickey Point Sail Club, in cooperation with Lake Roosevelt National Park Service maintains a Community Access Point which is composed of a permitted lease for 30 mooring buoys; a dinghy/service dock and an unimproved parking area on adjacent NPS managed lands. Four of those buoys are for Public Sailboat Mooring with a free three day limit. 

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