Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District - Sunbeam Dam

Photo of Sunbeam DamAs early as 1907, C.E. Gable, the manager of the Sunbeam Consolidated Gold Mines Company, thought of constructing a hydroelectric plant to provide power for his mine and mill. Because the Yankee Fork area had been largely logged out, the cost of operating the Sunbeam's steam-powered mill on Jordan Creek had become prohibitive.

In 1909, the Sunbeam Company decided to build the dam and power plant. Mr. Gable chose the dam's location for two reasons. First the dam needed to be on the main Salmon River. During the summer the flow rate of Jordan Creek and the Yankee Fork, the two creeks closest to the mill, was inadequate to turn the turbines. Second, the dam was located a short distance downstream from Yankee Fork (now Sunbeam) Hot Springs. Gable hoped that the water would remain sufficiently warm to operate the power plant throughout the winter.

Construction of the dam and power plant began in June 1909 and was completed in May 1910. Three hundred tons of cement was used in building the dam, which was 80 feet long on the bottom, 95 feet long on top and 35 feet high. The turbine drove the generator, which produced 2300 volts of electricity, stepped up by a transformer to 23,000 volts for transmission over the power lines. In addition to the electric lines, the Sunbeam Company stretched a telephone line the thirteen miles from the dam to their Jordan Creek property. At the mill, voltage was reduced down to 440 volts for running the machinery and 110 volts for lighting.

Fishing at Sunbeam DamThe Sunbeam's mill and mine operated almost a year on electricity. However, the low cost of electric power still could not compensate for the low value of the Sunbeam's ore, which sometimes ran as low as $2.00 per ton. The company could not meet its financial obligations. In April 1911, the Sunbeam property was sold at a sheriff's auction to satisfy its creditors, and the mine and mill closed down.

The Sunbeam power plant was never used after 1911. Caretakers lived near the dam and maintained it for a number of years. After the death of Lou Cruthers, the last caretaker, the dam's fish ladders fell into disrepair. Rather than build new fish ladders, the dam was partially blown up in 1933 or 1934 to allow the salmon to continue their run up the Salmon River.