Paradise River Hydroelectric Plant

During the summer of 1916, the newly formed Rainer National Park Company (RNPC) constructed a 250-horsepower hydroelectric power plant on Van Trump Creek above Christine Falls to provide electrical power for the construction of the Paradise Inn. Four years later in the summer of 1920, with business booming and an expansion of the Inn underway, the RNPC requested permission from the National Park Service (NPS) to replace its small power plant on Van Trump Creek with a larger installation near the confluence of the Paradise and Nisqually rivers.

After consultation with the NPS’s chief landscape engineer, Charles P. Punchard, Jr., on the precise location and character of the project to ensure the power plant would not be a “blemish on the landscape,” then Park Superintendent Roger Wolcott Toll approved the plan for the new hydroelectric plant. RNPC completed the new Paradise plant, with its dam, 4,000 foot long penstock, and 750-horsepower powerhouse, by that fall at a cost of $75,000. Powerlines carrying 13,600 volts left the hydroelectric plant up over Ricksecker Point and past Oh My Point to the Paradise Inn. For its first eleven years of operation Bert J. Brouillet and his wife Estella maintained and kept a watchful eye on the hydroelectric plant located in the basement of their house on the banks of the Paradise River. Besides keeping the plant running, Bert and Estella were also responsible for keeping the dam clear of rocks and river debris as well as chopping ice off the dam during the long winter months.

It is unknown to me when the Paradise plant ceased operations, but today much remains of its penstock, dam and dam cabin, however, little evidence of the plant itself remains. On a rainy summer day in 2009, some 89 years after its construction, B-Spec and myself hiked (more like bushwhacked) the penstock to the dam and back.

Sources:
Annual Report of the Department of the Interior, Volume I, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1920.
Soullière, Laura Harrison. Architecture in the Parks: A National Historic Landmark Theme Study: Paradise Inn. National Park Service, 1986.
Thompson, Erwin N. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington: Historic Resource Study. Denver: National Park Service, 1981.
Snow, David E. Historic Structure Report: Paradise Inn, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Denver: National Park Service, 1979.

Looking up at Ricksecker Point at the start of the hike. Looking up at Rickse...
Crossing the Nisqually river was the first obstacle of the hike. Crossing the Nisqual...
Looking up at Eagle Peak hiding in the low clouds. Looking up at Eagle ...
A little trail heads off into the forest. A little trail heads...
Paradise River; An older tire and 55-gallon drum washed up on the banks are evidence of a later mining operation on Eagle Peak. Paradise River; An o...
We locate the remains of the hydroelectric plant by some miscellaneous debris and scatter in a clearing along the Paradise River. We locate the remain...
More debris. More debris.
Some trash scatter amongst the grass. Some trash scatter a...
A piece of an ornate stove leg? A piece of an ornate...
The first section of penstock we come across. The first section of...
Seven shoes and bands holding a joint in the penstock together. Seven shoes and band...
The wooden-stave penstock seem to be in great condition after 89 years! The wooden-stave pen...
The wire wrapping the wooden-staves seemed to be coated in a non-ferrous metal. Maybe copper? The wire wrapping th...
More cast-iron shoes and bands. More cast-iron shoes...
Machine wound wire. Machine wound wire.
The penstock crosses a slide zone and heads into the forest. The penstock crosses...
The penstock amazed me at its condition! The penstock amazed ...
A section of penstock briefly travels alongside a popular hiking trail. A section of penstoc...
In some of the low-lying moist areas of forest the wood-stave has rotted leaving the wire behind. In some of the low-l...
A brief peak at the Paradise River before the penstock heads back into the forest. A brief peak at the ...
Yours truly over a section of rotted penstock. Yours truly over a s...
We found an interesting portion of penstock where a cast-iron tee was added and a smaller diameter wooden-stave pipe entered the larger one. We found an interest...
Cast-iron tee. Cast-iron tee.
Our first view of the dam! Our first view of th...
Remains of the penstock intake existing the dam structure. Remains of the penst...
The dam has become overgrown. The dam has become o...
Water still penetrates the plugged penstock intake. Water still penetrat...
A threaded iron rod and brass nut are what remain of the penstock intake controls. A threaded iron rod ...
Two wooden-stave pipes span a gap between the cement dam walls. Two wooden-stave pip...
Remains of a wooden wall just prior to the cement dam. Remains of a wooden ...
Paradise River flowing over the dam spillway. Paradise River flowi...
Another view of the threaded iron rod and brass nut that remain of the penstock intake controls. Another view of the ...
On the edge of the high dam walls near the spillway is another threaded iron rod and brass nut. The brass nut likely had a wheel attached and turning the wheel would raise or lower the gate feeding the penstock. On the edge of the h...
B-Spec evaluating the eroded bank beneath the dam cabin. B-Spec evaluating th...
The dam cabin. The dam cabin.
Sadly, this cabin has a little time left before the bank beneath it erodes to the point where the cabin falls over into the Paradise River. Sadly, this cabin ha...
Cedar shake walls and a 'newer' tin roof over the original cedar shake roof. Cedar shake walls an...
Looking up the Paradise River from the dam cabin. Looking up the Parad...
The dam cabin sat only a few yards from the dam. The dam cabin sat on...
The cabin door is chained shut by the NPS. The cabin door is ch...
No Molesting Dam Cabins! No Molesting Dam Cab...
A peek through a small gap in the door revels the dam cabins innards. A peek through a sma...
A stack of wooden-stave's awaits the dam keeper. A stack of wooden-st...
A parting shot of the debris filled dam. A parting shot of th...
Back near the location of the hydro-plant, we locate a two piece ceramic insulator and wire heading off through the forest. Back near the locati...
A closer look at the two piece insulator. A closer look at the...
Following the wire on the ground led us to this view of poles and wire heading off over the hill towards Paradise. Following the wire o...

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