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.

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