Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

About the Park

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, located in the northeast corner of Washington State, is located within the upper Columbia River gorge. The national recreation area spans three distinct physiographic provinces: the Okanogan Highlands, the Kootenay Arc, and the Columbia Plateau. The geologic features of these three regions are radically different and the juxtaposition of these landforms is a major factor that contributes to the unique character of the area.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

The climate of the area changes from the south end to the north. The south is hot and dry in the summer with average annual precipitation at the dam around 10 inches. To the north in Colville, precipitation is around 17 inches per year, which is sufficient to support the ponderosa pines and Douglas-fir forests that are common to the area. The Lake Roosevelt watershed drains about 44,969 square miles, 88% of which is Canada. The lake extends more than 154 miles along the Columbia River through the national recreation area and includes the lower reaches of many rivers and streams. Most of the water in lake comes from glacial ice, lakes and snow high in the Canadian Rockies.

Climate change presents significant risks and challenges to the National Park Service and specifically to Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. Scientists cannot predict with certainty the general severity of climate change nor its impacts. Average global temperatures on the Earth’s surface have increased about 1.1°F since the late 19th century, and the 10 warmest years of the 20th century all occurred in the last 15 years.

At Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, increasing temperatures represent a very real threat to park-wide resources. Lake Roosevelt is formed by Grand Coulee Dam, one of the world’s largest concrete structures, which backs up the Columbia River for over 150 miles of its length. The large reservoir is operated to maximize electrical power generation, provide downstream flood water management, supply irrigation water for the Columbia Basin Project and vital releases to protect native fisheries, and to provide recreational opportunities for over 1.3 million visitors each year.

Reduced snowpacks, loss of glaciers in the Canadian and northern U.S. Rockies headwaters of the watershed, warmer winters, more intense storm events, and hotter or drier conditions will all add major management considerations to the operation of the reservoir. This in turn will greatly impact recreational activities and native habitats with widely fluctuating lake levels throughout the year. The changing precipitation patterns may further alter park ecosystems and change vegetation communities through either invasion by a host of non-native plant species that try to take advantage of the stressful climatic conditions or a possible increase in catastrophic wildfire events. This in turn reduces the habitats available for native wildlife species, affects the outdoor experiences of park visitors, and can even threaten park facilities and public safety.

This Action Plan identifies steps that Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area can undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and mitigate their impact on climate change. While the plan provides a framework needed to meet the recreation area’s emission reduction goals, it is not intended to provide detailed instructions on how to implement each of the proposed measures. The recreation area’s Environmental Management System will describe priorities and details to implement these actions.

Emissions Profile

GHG emissions result from the combustion of fossil fuels for transportation and energy, the decomposition of waste and other organic matter, and the volatilization or release of gases from various other sources.

In 2007, GHG emissions within Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area totaled 542 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E). This includes emissions from park operations, including vehicle and boat use within the park.

The largest emission sector for management of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area is by far transportation totaling 218 MTCO2E . The park is a very long, narrow, linear park stretched along the 150+ miles of Lake Roosevelt and so the logistics of reducing travel even for the park’s workforce are complicated. The park has already made a big effort in reducing travel-related emissions by dividing into two districts and stationing staff at three primary field stations (Headquarters, Fort Spokane, and Kettle Falls) but implementing the actions included in the transportation and education sections of this plan are key in order to meet the park’s emission reduction goals.

The graph below, taken from our Climate Action Plan, shows our baseline emissions in 2007 broken down into sectors, including visitor travel.


Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area intends to:

  • Reduce park operations’ energy use emissions to 25 percent below 2007 levels by 2016.
  • Reduce park operations’ transportation emissions to 25 percent below 2007 levels by 2016.
  • Reduce park operations’ waste emissions to 25 percent below 2007 levels by 2016 through waste diversion and reduction.

To read more about what we are doing at the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area about climate change, check out our Action Plan