HISTORY OF KETTLE FALLS
Rich in History and Culture
In Kettle Falls, we take pride in our heritage. From the mountains carved out by prehistoric glaciers, to the native peoples 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.
More historic photos can be seen on the Washington Rural Heritage website.
PEOPLE OF THE FALLS
The falls of Kettle River were crucial to numerous indigenous peoples that lived in the region including: the Colvilles, Spokanes, San Poils, Okanagons, and Kootenais. The native tribes 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 European settlers, some of the tribes eventually migrated westward due to the increased competition in trade. Traditional living rapidly changed as trading and new goods were introduced to the region.
An Executive Order issued in 1872 pushed eleven of these tribes onto reservation land, which was subsequently reduced, and then again moved to accommodate further settlers claiming land out west. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation currently sits in southeastern section of Okanogan County and the southern half of Ferry County. For more information check out the Colville Tribes website.
With the arrival of David Thompson, a British-Canadian fur trader, and his party in July of 1811, British, Scottish and Native Americans brought new transportation, new goods and international trade to the region. The Hudson Bay Company established a trading post called Fort Colville. (This should not be confused with Fort Colville, a U.S. Army post, located 3 miles north of Colville, WA.)
From 1860 to 1880, the community changed to meet the demands of the newly arrived prospectors and settlers. The City of Kettle Falls was established in 1892, settling in an area overlooking the original falls along Kettle River.
THE RELOCATION OF A LIFESTYLE
Sawmills and ranches supported the town prior to the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. Financed by The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Grand Coulee Dam was built for hydro-power and irrigation of the Columbia Basin. The entire town of Kettle Falls had to be moved prior to the completion of the Dam in 1942.
Kettle Falls was the largest town in Stevens County to be relocated. Kettle Falls annexed 60 feet of land at its current location, including part of the town of Meyers Falls. Homes and businesses were moved to a new location and both towns later combined to become the present day City of Kettle Falls.
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.