Old Kettle Falls
Walking the trail to the Kettle Falls swim beach and you’ll most likely see birds, trees and wildlife. But if you take a detour through the Locust Grove group site, you’ll find a few things that just seem… out of place. Concrete steps that mysteriously rise to meet nothing. Sidewalks that appear in the grass and then fade into the woods. Slabs of concrete buckling as tree roots push their way up through the ground. You’ll probably guess that there is something missing. Something big–like a town. So where are all the buildings that go on top of these crumbling foundations next to the road?
The Grand Coulee Dam was built on the Columbia River during the 1930s Depression as a part of President Roosevelt’s Works Projects Administration, a plan to irrigate the parched farmland of the Columbia Basin, bring electricity to rural areas and get the unemployed back to work, also brought the demise of 11 towns along the river. Faced with inundation by Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir created by the dam, some three thousand people had to leave their homes. Land, home and business owners had few options. They had to sell their property or see it condemned. Their buildings could be sold as well. Owners could pay for them to be moved or watch them burn.
A few communities, like Marcus and Kettle Falls, persevered by relocating, but many smaller towns simply broke apart and scattered to the wind. The actual sites of most of the towns have disappeared under the reservoir, but the remnants of these two towns can still be seen. Marcus is visible during the lake’s drawdown and curious visitors can still stumble across the remains of old Kettle Falls year round in Locust Grove. They can imagine what brought people to the town as they look at the stairs that once served the stage-coach riders. Careful observers can find the family name Bevan etched into a sidewalk outside the old bakery. The remains of old Kettle Falls are slowly being reclaimed by the landscape but if we continue to talk about the town and remember its stories the town will never truly be gone.
Did You Know?
When the Grand Coulee Dam was finished and the lake filled, 11 towns were submerged. Every structure was cleared or burned. Soon, the rising waters covered the forlorn concrete foundations with water and darkness. Some towns died, others were built above the new lake, replacing what was lost.