The Enloe Dam Challenge

“Let’s just leave the car here and walk down,” Kristine and I said in unison as our little Ford Fiesta bottomed out on the steep, rocky road. We were intent on getting to the abandoned dam and waterfall below, but we were also intent on getting to Republic that evening in one piece. So we walked, well, scampered down to the river.

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I’d been wanting to check out Enloe Dam ever since Ava gave a presentation on this endangered property back in February. When I found out this was named one of the 2016 Most Endangered Historic Properties by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, I insisted that we add it to our summer road trip itinerary. After hiking down to see it, I’m glad I did.

Henry and Ruby beat Kristine and me to the bottom. As I approached the river, I saw Ruby scaling the chain link fence at the river’s edge. I heard myself scream, “Ruby, haven’t you ever seen the Niagara Falls scene in Superman II!”

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The Similkameen River falls are stunning. The mist rising up from the rushing water was very welcome, given it had turned into a warm day. We hiked down river to the point right across from the powerhouse. The building is in pretty bad shape, but I found myself imagining what could go on there if somebody restored it. Given its perch on the river and view of the falls upstream, it’d make a pretty spectacular restaurant. It would have been a great place to work 100 years ago, before Bonneville Power made the dam unnecessary.

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After snapping some photos to document our accomplishment, we began the long walk back up the hill. The Fiesta made it out, but I’d recommend 4-wheel-drive to anybody planning on checking out Enloe Dam.

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Saving Enloe Dam

By Ava F., Lopez Island Middle School Student

Last year my dad and I took a trip to Eastern Washington on vacation. One stop on our trip was a waterfall on the Similkameen River near the town of Oroville. While walking to the falls, we passed several abandoned buildings along the river’s edge. I was curious about these buildings, and this year in Northwest History class I was able to get some answers about their history.  What I have learned is that the buildings I passed that day are what remains of the Enloe Dam, a dam that provided power to the surrounding community in the early 1900s. I also learned that the Enloe Dam is one of the Most Endangered Historic Properties in Washington State.

Similkameen River

Enloe Dam is a small rundown power plant placed next to a beautiful waterfall. The Similkameen River provided power to the area starting in 1907. The powerhouse we know today as Enloe Dam was built using local brick in the 1920s by Eugene Enloe. The town of  Oroville relied on Enloe for its power and electricity until the 1950s, when Bonneville Power started provided cheaper and more efficient electricity to the area.

The Enloe Dam has seen better days. Not many people can see what it was once used for, as it is now rundown and very much abandoned. The building itself was very sturdy until vandals started to destroy it.

Enloe Dam Powerhouse

The history of this Dam was built by the men and women who worked there. Without them there would be no Enloe Dam, and the people in the surrounding towns would not have power. This Dam faces the terrifying truth of extinction. With Enloe being so remote, there does not seem like there could be a lot of use for the building. Some people think this could be turned into a museum or even a rest area for travelers coming through the area.

The communities surrounding Enloe Dam and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation are trying to save it. I encourage you to visit the Dam. You can find it in the Washington State Insider app (available mid-June).

Enloe Dam

RevitalizeWA

For most Lopez School students, the word “endangered” brings to mind species of plants or animals that live in this fragile ecosystem that is the San Juan Islands: disappearing lichen from rocks on Iceberg Point, diminishing populations of sea birds, or hundreds of other species of concern around the Salish Sea. In the past few weeks, we’ve learned about another endangered list: historic properties around Washington State.

In late April I attended a conference in Chelan, called RevitalizeWA, organized by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. With my summer history trip around the state approaching, I thought this would be a good way to get a sense of some of the communities I’d be visiting in advance of hitting the road to promote the Washington State Insider app. During the opening reception of the conference, Chris Moore, the executive director for Washington Trust, announced the 2016 Most Endangered Properties List for Washington State – seven at-risk properties that embody the cultural heritage of their respective communities and the region overall. I was surprised to see that the #1 Most Endangered Property is Enloe Dam – a location that Ava, one of our ProjectWA students, had identified to put in the Washington State Insider app!

I learned so much at RevitalizeWA – from strategies to “right size” legacy cities to innovative approaches to preserving communities’ Main Streets – that I had to report back to our students upon my return to Lopez. To my surprise and delight, the students suggested that their final ProjectWA projects (a blog post to be published on this site) should be focused on this year’s Most Endangered Properties List. The idea makes so much sense, and I’m thrilled that this was the students’ idea, not mine.

We immediately took action on this idea. Each student picked one of the properties from the 2016 list, reached out to that property’s champion (usually the local Heritage Society), and created a location entry for the Washington State Insider app. We have a small class of just five students, but we’ve created app entries for each of the seven properties. For their blog posts, Ava picked Enloe Dam, given she was already interested in that place; Anna picked Woodinville Schoolhouse; Shayna picked Providence Heights College, Mallory picked the Dvorak Barn; and Sonnette picked the LaCrosse Rock Houses. Every one of the students’ property contacts replied immediately with enthusiasm – answering questions and providing more background information, maps, photos and videos. The students are now in the process of writing their blog posts.

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Lopez Island Middle School students work on their final projects, Most Endangered Properties

When Mr. Rovente and I came up with the idea for this semester’s ProjectWA class, we had no idea this is where we’d end up. We started with a good cause: raising awareness of the lesser known aspects of Washington State history while raising money for new text books. We’re ending up with an even bigger objective: helping preserve the places that represent Washington State’s cultural heritage.

RevitalizeWA