US Army Corps of Engineers
Seattle District

Important Information

In accordance with public health guidance, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials have closed the Chief Joseph Dam visitor center until April 13 to support efforts in mitigating the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our communities. We will be in continued contact with public health officials to evaluate our facilities beyond this timeline.

Critical operations staff continue working at the facility to support water management and hydropower production for the region.

The Corps of Engineers is committed to doing its part to help keep our city and region healthy and combat the further spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19

Chief Joseph Dam and Rufus Woods Lake

Chief Joseph Dam is the second largest hydropower producing dam in the United States. It is the largest hydropower producing dam operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The single powerhouse is over a third of a mile long and holds 27 house-sized turbines. Alone, it produces enough power to supply the whole Seattle metropolitan area. Power produced here is marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration.

When Chief Joseph Dam was built on the Columbia River, it created a lake called Rufus Woods Lake. The Columbia River has eroded through the Waterville Plateau creating a deep canyon. The rugged landscape found along the lake came into existence after millennia of erosion. Glaciers and the Missoula floods assisted the erorsion process and exposed basalt and granite cliffs. Giant boulder fields on the ridges above the lake and along the shoreline are evidence of the glaciers that once dominated the landscape.

Today the arid shrub ecosystem is dominated by the sage brush community with pockets of ponderosa pine, juniper, and Douglas fir stands that are home to a diversity of wildlife, including black bears, cougars, eagles, and rattlesnakes.

Numerous recreational opportunities exist in and around the lake, including picnicking, hiking, boating, hunting, fishing, swimming, and camping. There are two campgrounds near Chief Joseph Dam--Marina Park in Bridgeport and Bridgeport State Park on the north shore of the lake.

Rufus Woods Lake is a favorite spot for anglers from all over the region. Walleye, rainbow trout, and triploid trout are the major game fish caught in the lake.