Chelan County PUD, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation received the award at the NHA annual conference in Washington, D.C., for the collaborative education effort. Visitors at the three Columbia River dams can use geocaching technology — finding hidden clues using GPS (global positioning system) devices or smart phones — to search for hidden items and learn about clean, renewable hydropower along the way.
Geocaching is similar to a treasure hunt, using GPS coordinates that lead to a “cache” or treasure box. Rocky Reach visitors uncover caches filled with fun facts about the dam, and if they find them all, get a stamp in a D3 passport and a commemorative coin. To complete the challenge and receive a D3 patch, guests must finish the geocache courses at all three dams, including Chief Joseph Dam and Grand Coulee Dam.
More than 300 geocachers visited Rocky Reach last year – many who had never been to the dam before. Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee also saw many visitors who came just to geocache. The popular activity is free.
“We wanted to attract new guests to our visitor centers and remind local residents of what a treasure these hydro projects are that are right here in our back yard,” said Rocky Reach Visitor Services Manager Debbie Gallaher.
The program was so successful in its debut year in 2012 that it is being expanded to 10 more Northwest locations this year through the Foundation for Water and Energy Education.
Rocky Reach Dam is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. The Visitor Center offers free tours of the powerhouse along with the Museum of the Columbia, plus art displays, a theater and fish viewing.
Rocky Reach Visitor Center is located 7 miles north of Wenatchee on Highway 97A.