Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Western U.S. A deep gulch or ravine with sloping sides, often dry in summer.
  • n. Louisiana & Southern Mississippi A streambed, often dry according to the season.
  • n. Louisiana & Southern Mississippi A small stream, bayou, or canal.
  • n. Upper Midwest A valley with hills on either side.
  • n. A stream of molten lava.
  • n. A sheet of solidified lava.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A stream.
  • n. A lava flow.
  • n. A deep gulch or ravine, frequently dry in summer.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A stream.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A dry ravine or gulch; a channel worn by running water in times of excessive rainfall or by the sudden melting of the snow.
  • n. A flow: used principally, by some geologists, of lava-flows.

Etymologies

Canadian French coulée, from French, flow, from couler, to flow, from Latin cōlāre, to filter, from cōlum, sieve.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French coulée ("flow"), from couler ("to flow") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I wondered about the word coulee in the old song: "... they feed in the coulees and water in the draws ..."

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol XVIII No 4

  • The cowpunchers pays 'em an afternoon call, an 'suggests that the air outside the coulee is a lot healthier for sheep -- an' sheepmen -- an 'that onless they makes up their minds to depart, an' to make that departure a record-breaker for speed, they'll make their relatives sure a heap mournful.

    The Boy With the U. S. Foresters

  • "Now, this coulee, which is the scene of these here operations, is so located that there's only one way out.

    The Boy With the U. S. Foresters

  • I think the longest shot I've ever taken was about 250 yards (across a deep coulee) I got the mule deer buck and filled my tag.

    Another Take on Long-Range Shooting

  • This year I took an offhand shot at a standing mule deer doe in Montana, and missed completely, about 200 yards (another coulee, terrain prevented any kind of a rest).

    Another Take on Long-Range Shooting

  • She and others believe improving the coulee would prevent a wall of water from rushing downstream.

    Devils Lake, North Dakota, Swallows Land And Buildings

  • The coulee was running higher, the current sweeping along the crown of his skull, startling him, his eyes opening wide.

    The Glass Rainbow

  • His face was contorted, the water in the coulee flowing thick with mud and dead vegetation through the broken windows, touching the top of his head.

    The Glass Rainbow

  • Some of the damage done by Hurricane Rita was still visible: concrete foundations in empty fields, an automobile wedged upside down in a coulee, the wreckage of homes bulldozed in piles as high as small pyramids, and the tangled bones of livestock that had drowned by the tens of thousands, sometimes on rooftops or inside the second stories of farmhouses.

    The Glass Rainbow

  • I could see the coulee that I had raced down and hidden inside.

    The Glass Rainbow

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Comments

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  • "He heads off down a small coulee, staying hidden until he is on the far side of the cattle, trots right to pull in the herd, back left to tighten the flank, and moves in expertly from behind to push them forward. More than a hundred and fifty years of inventive selective breeding has created the perfect cowpoke on four legs. Gary watches his partner at work, always amazed that a dog with no formal training knows instinctively from an early age exactly what has to be done."
    —Merrily Weisbord and Kim Kachanoff, Dogs with Jobs: Working Dogs Around the World (NY and London: Pocket Books, 2000), 98

    July 28, 2009

  • In the Northwest U.S. a coulee is a gulch carved out of basalt rock by the great Missoula Floods: A dry canyon eroded by Pleistocene floods that cut into the lava beds of the Columbia Plateau in the western United States. These coulees have steep sides and never were stream beds. The Grand Coulee in Eastern Washington State is the largest and best known.

    April 8, 2009

  • the strain of rain

    December 2, 2008