Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Washington State Route 155

On Saturday, September 24, 2011, we drove the length of State Route 155, up the Grand Coulee to its eponymous garganutan dam and then through the Okanogan highlands. Coulee City, Grand Coulee, and Coulee Dam; Electric City, Elmer City, and Omak!

RCW 47.17.300
State route No. 155
A state highway to be known as state route number 155 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 2 in the vicinity north of Coulee City, thence northeasterly to the boundary of the federal reservation at the Grand Coulee dam; also

Beginning at the boundary of the federal reservation at the Grand Coulee dam, thence northwesterly by the most feasible route by way of Nespelem and Disautel to a junction with state route number 97 at Omak; also

Beginning at a junction with state route number 155 at Omak, thence northwesterly crossing the Okanogan river to a junction with state route number 215 at Omak.

SR 155 @ US 2
Just north of Coulee City and just east of Banks Lake, SR 155 begins at a junction with US 2. To continue east on US 2, you have to turn right. We, on the other hand, continue straight ahead.

SR 155 @ SR 174
Banks Lake is an odd reservoir, with a dam on both ends. It nearly fills the full width of the Grand Coulee, leaving just a little space for the highway. So this section is quite scenic, but everything must end. We arrive at Electric City, then the city of Grand Coulee and a junction with SR 174.

SR 155 @ Grand Coulee
At the other end of the city of Grand Coulee, SR 155 ends (but they don't tell you!). It enters the "federal reservation" which is the area around the dam.

SR 155 @ Coulee Dam
The road goes down the hill past the Grand Coulee Dam and the visitors center. We enter the city of Coulee Dam and Douglas County and suddenly this is SR 155 yet again. Do you see where the pavement changes?

SR 155 @ SR 155 spur
The highway crosses the Columbia River just below the Grand Coulee Dam. The river is also Rufus Woods Lake here, by the way, already backed up behind the Chief Joseph Dam far downstream. They didn't waste an inch of potential energy. We leave the city of Coulee Dam, cruise through Elmer City, and head into the hills, saying goodbye to the Columbia. After Nespelem, Highway 155 turns more westward and enters the forest. Up narrow valleys we climb. In Coyote Canyon, towering scree slopes of boulders pinch the highway from both sides. But then we crest Disautel Pass and head down Omak Creek to the city by the same name. Back to civilization. Back to highway oddities, where SR 155 has a junction with itself...

SR 155 @ US 97 & SR 20
We take a sharp left, now going due south on "north" SR 155. After a few blocks, we come to a junction with US 97 and SR 20, which are one and the same. We crossed underneath it/them just a couple blocks before the junction with SR 155 spur. (Did I fail to mention that?)

SR 155 spur @ SR 155
But SR 155 isn't done yet. Here we are again! Did the shadows move at all? SR 155 spur continues straight where SR 155 turns left. Still in Omak.

SR 155 spur @ SR 215
A few blocks later, we cross the Okanogan River to the heart of Omak. SR 215! That quickly, SR 155 is done.

Highway 155 seem like two very different roads. One is through a huge canyon beside a giant lake. The other crosses the Colville Indian Reservation through fields and forests. A giant chunk of engineering history tie them together.

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