Kettle Falls prior to creation of Lake Roosevelt

History of Kettle Falls

                                Rich in History & Culture


In Kettle Falls we take pride in our heritage. From the mountains carved out by prehistoric glaciers, to the Native Americans who first inhabited the land and the first pioneers who created the town, Kettle Falls has been through it all. The name of the town originated from the nearby falls on the Upper Columbia River. The falls, plummeted nearly 50 feet carving out “kettles” in the quartzite rock below. According to the natives, "the kettles were three squaws deep."


Salmon in the falls



The falls were crucial to numerous Native American tribes that lived in the region including: the Colvilles, Spokanes, San Poils, Okanagons, and Kootenais.  The Natives gathered at the falls for ceremonies, bartering and salmon fishing.  They called the falls "san-ate-koo" meaning "deep-sounding waters."




With the arrival of David Thompson and his party in July of 1811, British, Scottish and Eastern Native people brought new transportation, new goods and international trade to the region.  The Hudson Bay Company established a trading post called Fort Colville, three miles above the falls.   For years things were balanced between the fur traders and the People of the Falls.  Kettle falls changed to meet the demands of the newly arrived prospectors and settlers in the years 1860 to 1880.  The City of Kettle Falls, originally built overlooking the falls, was established in 1892.


Fort Colville 1888
Relocation of Kettle Falls




Sawmills and ranches supported the town prior to the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.  The Grand Coulee Dam, financed by The US Bureau of Reclamation, was built for hydro-power and irrigation of the Columbia Basin.  The entire town had to be moved prior to its completion in 1942.  Kettle Falls was the largest town in Stevens County to be relocated.  Kettle Falls annexed 60 feet of land, including part of the town of Meyers Falls.  Homes and businesses were moved to their new location and both towns later became the present day Kettle Falls.





The water behind the dam rose 380 feet, covering 125 square miles, creating Lake Roosevelt.  The falls are estimated to be 90 feet under water and the old town of Kettle Falls, 30 feet. 


Construction of Grand Coulee Dam 

 Bridge prior to Creation of Lake Roosevelt



Two new bridges, one for traffic and the other for trains, were constructed prior to raising the water behind the dam. The 600 foot steel cantilever bridges had the longest central span of any highway bridge built in Washington State during the 1940’s. The bridges were added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1995.




Experience the 9,000 years of regional history for yourself at the


People of the Falls Interpretive Center

1188 Portage Rd

Kettle Falls, WA  99141

(509) 738-6964 



Kettle Falls Historical Center