Visit Rocky Reach Dam and the Rocky Reach Discovery Center in nearby Wenatchee, WA to see the dam and fish ladder, learn about the history of the dam, and much more! All just 40 minutes from Kelly’s Resort on Lake Chelan.
Construction on Rocky Reach Dam first began in 1956. The 1694′ long, 125′ tall hydroelectric dam has 12 spillway gates, 11 turbine-driven generators, and generates 1,300 megawatts of electricity for the region.
Rocky Reach is also well known for its environmental efforts. The dam was the first to install a juvenile fish bypass system to help young salmon and steelhead on their way to the ocean. The dam also saw a major upgrade in 1995 that included newer, more fish friendly turbines.
Rocky Reach Dam is an imposing and fascinating presence on the river. A true marvel of engineering that people come from all over to view, tour, and photograph. They also come to visit the Rocky Reach Discovery Center, added in 1962 and located on the west side of the dam.
Visitors who have been to the Rocky Reach Discovery Center before will find quite a few changes when they visit now. The center recently received a much needed, $7.7 million upgrade. In fact, it has been closed since 2019 and only recently reopened, August of 2021.
One of the biggest changes to the Center is the removal and closing of the long-running Museum of the Columbia.
The Museum of the Columbia, formerly housed inside the dam powerhouse, closed permanently in 2019. While many of its exhibits found new homes in the upgraded Discovery Center, others moved to the Wenatchee Valley Museum. This closure means that visitors will no longer visit the powerhouse unless on a guided dam tour.
The New Discovery Center
The main floor of the new Discovery Center includes a mini-theater and a cafe. Climb the stairs in the cafe to reach the new patio deck and fantastic views of the dam and fish ladder.
There’s also a round glass floor allowing you to look down upon a 14-foot tall, spiraling fish mobile spanning the two floors below. Over 100 salmon, representing the different species found in the mid-Columbia, are on the spiral. Fascinating!
The next level down contains the Living River area. Here you’ll find new and restored Native American history exhibits. Many of the items on display, like the tule house and canoe, are from the now closed Museum of the Columbia.
The Sternwheeler Video Game is one of the Center’s most popular attractions. This fun and addictive virtual challenge sees you maneuvering a sternwheeler ship around rocks, sandbars, and other obstacles in the Rock Island rapids. Fun!
Lower Level 2 is home to the real star of the Center: the Fish Viewing Window. Here you can watch fish on the fish ladder during their seasonal, upstream migrations. This attraction has also been expanded with five windows and more space. Even better, there is no railing so you can get up close to the glass.
May and August are the best months to view migrating Chinook salmon. Sockeye salmon appear in July and steelhead in September. So cool!
Rocky Reach Dam and Discovery Center
Rocky Reach Dam and the Discovery Center are located at 5000 State Hwy 97A, in Wenatchee, WA. The Discovery Center is now open all year ’round, 9:30am to 5pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free.
As I say above, Rocky Reach Dam is just 40 minutes easy drive from Kelly’s Resort on Lake Chelan. Come stay at our cottages and lakeside condos to enjoy enclosed lake swimming, docks,, a heated pool, laundry facilities, and much more. Book your Lake Chelan getaway at Kelly’s Resort today!