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Images of the John Day Dam on Columbia River, Washington State

The John Day Lock & Dam, part of the Pacific Northwest Reservoir System, impounds the Columbia River near the city of Rufus, Oregon, appr. 110 miles eastwards of the city of Portland; the nearest city on the Washington State is the town of Goldendale, appr. 20 miles upstream. The Columbia River generally sets the natural border between the states of Washington and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) as it runs westward to the Pacific Ocean. The Dam is located 216 miles (River Mile) upriver from the port of Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Columbia River Locks & Dams (source: USACE)

The John Day Lock & Dam infrastructure project consists of a navigation lock, gravity-driven spillway, powerhouse, and fish-passage facilities on both shores. Construction for the John Day Dam began in 1958 and completion took place in 1971; total construction cost for the project was $511 million (nominal dollars). The Dam has an overall length of 7,635 ft (2,327 m), allowing 1,975 ft (602 m) for the powerhouse, 1,252 ft (382 m) for the spillway and its twenty (20) Tainter gates, and 86 ft (26 m) for the navigation lock (width).

As an interesting note, unlike the lock and dam system of the eastern United States that were built with the primary purpose of making the riverway system, and especially the Mississippi River safely and commercially navigable, the locks and dams of the Columbia River watershed (between the United States and Canada) had as a primary objective to produce hydroelectricity. There are 60 dams in the Pacific Northwest with the majority of them on the Columbia River and its main tributary, the Snake River, with more dams on Kootenay, the Pend Oreille / Clark, on Flathead, the Yakima, and the Owyhee River.

The John Day Lock & Dam, built at an elevation of 570 ft above sea level, is located at the head of the Lake Celilo (the artificial lake downstream, itself created by The Dalles Dam at 192 river mile, appr 24 miles downstream), with the Lake Umatilla formed upstream of the John Day Dam. Lake Celilo is 23.6 miles in length while the Lake Umatilla is 76.4 miles in length, to the feet of the McNary Dam. Various recreational facilities are provided along the shores of Lake Umatilla and on the John Day River. The John Day Dam is fitted with 16-generator powerhouse with maximum generating capacity of 2.48 million KW (of the appr. 36 million KW hydroelectric power produced in the PNW). The dam is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), while a few dams in the region are managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, local municipal authorities, or even private (power) companies.

John Day Lock and Dam Outline (Source: USACE)

The Navigation Lock Chamber has a length 650 ft (198.1 m), width 86 ft (26.7 m), and maximum lift 113 ft (34.4 m) and average transit time of thirty (30) minutes (39 minutes to fill, 15 minutes to empty); the lock chamber is fitted with a Guillotine 876 ton gate that requires 32 steel cables to operate. At 113 ft (34.4 m) maximum lift, it ranks amongst the highest single lift locks in the world, and the highest in the United States. In general, there are six (6) commercial transits each day.

Herebelow a pictorial gallery of the John Day Lock & Dam as were taken in late March 2022, from both the Washington State and Oregon State riverbanks of the Columbia River. Copyrighted material by Karatzas Images 2022. Please request permission to publish at info [at] bmkaratzas [ dot] com


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