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Copyright © 2008 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
Note about the photos & content on this site:
Most photos were taken by me. I usually allow people to use my photos for personal use or websites. Simply Email me. I may not have authority to
grant permission regarding some photos that were only loaned to me by others specifically for this website.
|Looking down on the dam and powerhouse from the above on the canyon rim. Access to the site is extremely easy. It's off of Highway 216 several miles in between the
small town of Tygh Valley the Deshutes River. The site is located on the White River, just before it flows into the Deshutes.
|This dam was built to back up a tributary to the White River and had a small lake behind it at one point, before it was later drained. When we were there, the creek was not
flowing at all, which clearly indicates that it wouldn't have provided much of a source of power during the summer months. I'm guessing it's primary purpose may have
been more a source of irrigation for the farm land on the rim above the river and possibly an alternative source for the powerhouse.
|A map of the general area of the powerhouse, dam and falls.
|The White River Falls is just an incredible site to behold. It's a two stage punchbowl falls which provides an excellent swimming hole for the few locals or lucky passerbys
that know about it. During the use of the powerhouse it served as a collector of silt
|The boarded up remains of the powerhouse. Note the rock construction of the building. The back wall up against the cliff has suffered severe damaged as boulders have
plowed through the wall structure.
|This old casting says it was made in 1902, which is when the powerhouse was built.
|More shots of the interior. It did appear that someone, maybe right after it was abandoned or sometime afterwards did what they could to remove and salvage the copper
wiring and at least parts of the huge generators were removed.
|incredibly, more than 40 years after it was abandoned, much of the remains of the original 1902 generators remain on the site. The site has clearly been picked over, but
much of the large machinery remains. Probably at least partly because it's at the bottom of a steep canyon and hauling this stuff out would be cost prohibitive.
|The White River is a Tributary of the Deschutes River in Oregon. A powerhouse was built below a place called the White River
Falls, located in between the small community of Tygh Valley and Sheares Crossing, which was a major wagon and later vehicle
crossing at a narrow point on the Deschutes River.
In approximately 1902 the Wasco Warehouse Milling Company, built this powerhouse to power its major mills in The Dalles,
Oregon, some 40 miles to the north. In 1910, the Wasco Milling Company sold the powerhouse to the Pacific Power and Light
Company. This company was said to be owned by Eastern U.S. Speculators who were trying to buy up little power companies
with the intention of tieing them up together into one large grid. This company was the sole source of power for The Dalles and
Dufer and surrounding area, until the Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams were built and the Bonneville Power Administration was
created, which gave power priority to public utilities.
The White River falls has two stages and it's said that the primary source of the water was from the lower stage. As the water fell
from the upper stage of the falls, the silt would collect in the lower stage before it flowed into the turbines. The White River's
water is sourced largely from glaciers on Mt. Hood and contains a lot silt.
At one time, four homes were built above the powerhouse to house employees who maintained it. These are all gone today.
In approximately 1902, a Grist Mill was also built at the top of a place called the White River Falls. The Grist Mill, of which only a
foundation and some ruins remain today, was built to grind grain from local fields, In the late 1800s a grinding stone from
Scotland traveled here as ballast on board a ship and was put to use in the mill.
The entire site was abandoned by the PP&L in 1963. It was partly dismantled, but much of the equipment, including the main
turbines were left behind. The site has clearly been picked over by copper hunters. It's not clear if it was officially salvaged or
salvaged by thieves over the years. The entire site was donated to the state of Oregon and in 1974 was turned into a remote
little known state park called the Tygh Valley State Wayside. It would later be named the White River Falls State Park.
At one point the powerhouse was planned to be rebuild and redeveloped by the Northern Wasco PUD. In 1982 and 1983 See
source plans were underway to study installing an entirely new 8.5 Megawatt plant on the same site as the current ruins. It was
probably killed largely due to environmental and fish passage concerns.
We first visited the site in approximately 2001 and found little more than a gravel parking lot and a dirt trail leading to the
abandoned site. In 2005, the state had done considerable work to create a state park out of the upper parking lot area, adding
restrooms and even a seasonal park host. However, as of 2005, the powerhouse appeared to be untouched and unrestored.
Contrast to the heavily invested upper park, the powerhouse site looks much like an old abandoned industrial site abandoned in
the middle of nowhere that hasn't seen visitors in decades. A true treasure for industrial historians and explorers.
|This is a long overdue article about our exploration
back in 2005 of a hidden, but fairly well preserved
historical power house and dam ruins on the White
River, near Tygh Valley, Oregon.
|Last Update: March 21, 2008
|White River Power House