Title Tacoma Power Plant

Exterior of the Tacoma Power Plant around 1910.


Mines in the San Juan Mountains around Silverton required electricity. Engineer H.T. Henderson developed the idea of using water to generate electricity at a power plant 32 miles north of Durango. Water was diverted from Cascade Creek using flumes and reservoirs. It dropped nearly 1000 feet to generate electricity before the water was discharged into the Animas River.


Western Power Company photograph of part of the flume, taken in 1919. Catalog Number: 16.21.34

Construction began on a wooden box flume on Cascade Creek in 1903. Timber for the flume was cut two miles away and sent downhill through extremely difficult terrain on a muddy skidway to a small sawmill. Supplies arrived via mule-drawn wagons. Water travelled in this flume to a small lake, then down a two-mile natural course to a second flume built in 1905.

Construction camp at Electyra Lake

Construction camp at Electra Lake for working on the flume circa 1905. Catalog Number: 95.14.73

When completed the flume carried water to a small lake which was later named “Electra”. From the dam at Electra Lake, water passed through a two-mile flume to a lake known as Forebay, then through a pipeline downhill to the plant. Construction began on the power plant in 1905. The building materials for the brick plant were transported by railroad. The generators for the plant were intended for use in a plant near Tacoma, Washington. They proved to be too small, so were redirected to the project on the Animas. The original shipping crates, labeled “Tacoma” sat by the railroad siding for several weeks. People started calling the railroad stop Tacoma and the name stuck.

Interior of Tacoma Plant

Interior of the Tacoma Power House taken around 1918 by Henry P. Gonner. Catalog Number: 91.33.114

Transmission lines carried electricity north toward Silverton. The plant’s first customer, the Gold King Consolidated Mine, received power in May 1906. Transmission lines were built south to Durango in 1909. The plant is still in operation.

Interior of Tacoma Plant

Another view of the interior of the Tacoma Power Plant, circa 1920. Catlog Number: 01.3.3

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