Seattle City Light is celebrating the restoration of the historic light show at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project’s Ladder Creek Falls in Newhalem.
Superintendent Jorge Carrasco oversaw the official re-lighting of the falls Tuesday night at a ceremony with the project team and invited guests.
“It is a thrill to bring back this spectacular light show at Ladder Creek Falls,” Carrasco said. “Over the years, the beautiful lights have created special memories for thousands of visitors, who also had the chance to learn about the value of public power and clean, hydroelectric energy here at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. I know that this new, improved show will do the same thing for years to come and I’m sure City Light’s first superintendent, J.D. Ross, would be proud.”
Ross installed colored lights at the falls in the 1920s and 30s to create “a paradise of color in the wilderness.” The lights were part of his dedicated efforts to win public appreciation for the municipally owned Skagit Hydroelectric Project. The designs were largely a product of his personal idea’s and inspirations for artistic illumination. For visitors of that era, the lights created a fairyland symbolizing the new wonders of electricity.
Over the years, the original, historic system slowly fell into disrepair. By the end of 2004, the lighting system was completely dark.
In 2008, City Light started working to restore the lights. The design team of Berger Partnership and Candela was hired for $164,000 to design the new system to recreate the historic appearance while meeting current electrical and safety codes. Candela completed the designs in 2009. Valley Electric was awarded the $900,000 contract and started construction in 2010. The labor-intensive work, which also included rebuilding concrete stairs and installing a seating area, handrails, guard rails, signs, and benches, is now complete. Visitors will be able to enjoy a spectacle of changing lights within the glacier fed falls nightly from dark until midnight.
About 30 programmable, energy efficient LED light fixtures were installed to replace the original 1,000 watt spotlights. The new fixtures can be individually programmed to any color for any length of time, proving an almost unlimited number of options. The new lights use about 90 percent less electricity than the original fixtures.
“I am thrilled to be a part of this celebration of the return of the lights to Ladder Creek Falls,” said Gretchen Luxenberg, a National Park Service historian. “There is a renaissance going on in Newhalem with the historic designed landscape, and City Light should be applauded for its stewardship of these significant and unique resources.”
The light show is programmed to last 15 minutes and repeats throughout the evening. City Light anticipates developing additional programs for special events. Watch a video of the light show here or here.
Ladder Creek Falls is a part of the Newhalem Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.