From Little Falls to Major Power Producer: A Brief History of the Post Falls Dam
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From Little Falls to Major Power Producer:
A Brief History of the Post Falls Dam
The Post Falls Dam has stoically served North Idaho for over 100 years and is arguably one of the greatest social and geographical influences in the region today. To appreciate the history of the dam, it is important to start at the beginning, before the dam was built, even before there was a Spokane River or a Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Before Lake Coeur d’Alene existed, the St. Joe River ran through the present lakebed northward and up through the Rathdrum Prairie before turning west and into the Spokane Valley. About 15,000 years ago, during the peak of the last glacial period, huge glaciers covered much of British Columbia. This ice, which was almost 4,000 feet thick, unimaginably covered all but the highest mountain peaks. The glacier slowly crept down into North Idaho, stopping just north of Coeur d’Alene (Wuerthner, 30, 32).
Ice dams in the Clark Fork area that backed up Glacial Lake Missoula actually caused some of the largest floods known to man. As ice will float, these ice dams would periodically rise up and burst, catastrophically flooding the Rathdrum Prairie, eastern Washington and into northern Oregon. Locally, these floods brought in glacial till and deep deposits of outwash that obliterated the St. Joe River once running through the Rathdrum Prairie. The southernmost edge of these deposits terminated where Coeur d’Alene exists today, damming the old St. Joe River and creating Lake Coeur d’Alene (Alt and Hyndman, 73). The new lake received the entire flow of the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe Rivers, more than could be absorbed through the gravel deposits, thereby causing the lake to overflow and seek a new course, now known as the Spokane Ri...
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