A new power source was needed because the area had been logged out partly to supply fuel for a steam-powered mill. Without logs, that mill couldn’t run. Without the mill to process raw ore, there was no point in mining.
Sunbeam Dam to the rescue. It took 300 tons of concrete to build the dam, which was 95 feet wide and 35 feet high. The dam produced cheap electricity for the mine for a year. But the low grade of the ore coming out of Jordan Creek couldn’t make the operation pay, no matter how cheap the electricity was.
The dam, and other mining properties, were sold at a sheriff’s auction in 1911. The dam never produced electricity again.
One little problem with the dam was that it proved to be an obstacle for migrating salmon. Fish ladders helped solve that problem for several years. The wooden ladders fell into disrepair, and the salmon started to disappear from their spawning grounds. Fish and Game repaired the ladders at least once, but in 1933 the agency tired of the upkeep and decided to blow the dam up.
The dam belonged to someone, though, and dreams of mining riches die hard. Owners talked of using electricity from the dam again in “future” mining operations. They brought suit against the state to stop the destruction of the dam.
The mining company and the state settled out of court, with both parties agreeing to share costs in opening the dam up for migrating salmon. Fish passage was assured in 1934 by the careful application of dynamite.
Today, Sunbeam Dam is a tombstone to itself, a concrete reminder of a failed mining operation.