Lake Chelan Dam - Chelan, WA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 47° 50.003 W 120° 00.605
10T E 723741 N 5302111
Quick Description: Today an NRHP property, this facility's dam is the fifth to be built on the site, while the powerhouse remains the original.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 5/29/2018 12:06:47 PM
Waymark Code: WMYCFE
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Mark1962
Views: 0

Long Description:
A somewhat unusual hydro facility, the Lake Chelan Dam and powerhouse are separated by 350 feet in altitude and over two miles in distance. The dam, about 40 feet in height and 490 feet in length, contains 8 spillway gates and was built on the Chelan River at the eastern end of Lake Chelan while the powerhouse was built 350 feet downhill beside the Columbia River. The powerhouse is fed by a 2.2 mile long steel and concrete tunnel which delivers the water from the dam above. It provides power via a pair of 30 megawatt generators. Construction on both dam and powerhouse was begun in 1926 by the Washington Water Power Company. The facility was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

The present dam is the fifth to be built on the site, while the powerhouse is the first. The first three dams were built in 1892, 1893 and 1894, the first two lasting barely a year before being washed out by floods. The purpose of the first three dams was simply to raise the level of Lake Chelan, thereby enhancing water navigation to the city and providing water for consumption and use. The third fared somewhat better, lasting until being replaced in 1903 by a new dam, this one the first designed to not only raise the lake level, but generate electricity as well. It commenced operation in May of 1903. In 1926 Washington Water Power commenced construction on the present dam and powerhouse, which went into operation in September of 1927. Still in operation today, the facility is operated by the Chelan Public Utility District (PUD).


The Chelan River has a long, colorful history of dam development for navigation, water supply, and power generation. The first dam built to raise the level of Lake Chelan was completed in 1892. It was constructed to provide water for south Chelan real estate and navigation to the city of Chelan. It washed out during June of that year, only to be replaced by another structure built by the newly formed Chelan Water Power Company in 1893. This much larger and stronger dam was designed to raise the lake level enough to allow steamships to land at Chelan. However, even this structure lasted only a year before falling victim to a massive flood in June 1894. In early 1899, M.M. Kingman purchased the Chelan Water Power Company and proceeded to build another dam, this time for power generation. The "turning on of lights" was celebrated in Chelan in May 1903. The Chelan Water Power Company was purchased by the Chelan Electric Company in 1906. That firm was then purchased by Spokane-based Washington Water Power Company in 1925. A year later, Washington Water Power received a 50-year federal license to construct the existing dam and powerhouse. The first generating unit was placed in commercial operation in September 1927, followed by the second unit 11 months later.

The Dam
The dam is a steel-reinforced concrete gravity structure. It is approximately 40 feet high and 490 feet long. It contains eight spillway bays. When the spillway gates are open, water is discharged down the normally dry Chelan River channel.

The Power Tunnel
Water to power the turbine generators is delivered through an underground penstock connecting the dam and the powerhouse. It delivers water from the dam at the southeasterly end of Lake Chelan to the powerhouse at Chelan Falls, a vertical drop of nearly 350 feet. This steel and concrete tunnel is approximately 2.2 miles in length. The only visible portion of the tunnel is a 125-foot-high surge tank constructed on the hill above the plant to absorb hydraulic momentum of the water in case of load rejection. The penstock must undergo a federally required inspection every five years.

The Powerhouse
The powerhouse is located at Chelan Falls. It is 140 feet long, 100 feet wide and 124 feet high. Besides the two generating units, the powerhouse contains a control room, shop facilities, switching equipment, crane and communications equipment.

Water traveling down the power tunnel is directed against two turbines rated at 42,662 horsepower each. The turbines, which are connected to the generators by steel shafts, rotate at 300 revolutions per minute. The original turbines were replaced in 1985 and 1986, and those were replaced in 2009 and 2010.

The generators are rated at 29,600 kilowatts each. Together, they provide a normal operating output of 62 megawatts. The original generators were rewound in 1951 and 1952. New generators and other equipment were installed in 2009 and 2010, increasing output by nearly 15 percent. After passing around and through the turbine blades, water is discharged into the tailrace located on the east side of the powerhouse where it flows into the Columbia River.
From the Chelan PUD

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Location of the waterfall:
SE End of Bradley Street
Chelan, WA United States

Fees: 0.00 (listed in local currency)

Flow dates: From: 3/1/2018 To: 7/1/2018

Type / features of structure: Dam

Estimated height in feet: 30

Estimated height in meters: 10.00

Estimated width in feet: 400

River/stream/lake/reservoir: Chelan River

Coordinates of parking: Not Listed

Estimated width in meters: Not Listed

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