Swan Falls from the Canyon RimOpen House at Swan Falls Dam

We are invited to attend Idaho Power’s Swan Falls Dam Open House on Saturday, May 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Tractor Parade

About a dozen antique tractors will travel from the canyon rim to the powerhouse around noon on May 12.

Some Background Information about Swan Falls

Threads of history connect Idaho Power’s oldest power plant with our newest one, and the public will have a chance to visit the historic powerhouse and interpretive exhibits.  Open house will be Saturday, May 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in conjunction with Idaho Archeology and Historic Preservation Month, which is marking the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act.

On May 12, up to a dozen historical tractors will travel from from the canyon rim to the powerhouse around noon.

The Swan Falls Dam and original power plant were completed in 1901.  They were built to supply electricity to nearby mines at Silver City.  Before the arrival of power lines from Swan Falls, miners worked by candlelight and used steam-driven rock crushers.

The Swan Falls project changed all that.  As demand for electricty grew, and technology advanced, the original power plant underwent three major expansions before it was finally replaced in 1994.

Those early expansions allowed Swan Falls to supply electricity to small farms in Nampa-Caldwell area.  Many of those farmers claimed their lands under the provisions of the Homestead Act, as was the case with John Shepard.  His homestead was located not far from a spot that is now the location of the new Longley Gulch Power Plant.

Shepard’s homestead was investigated in 2008 by Idaho Power archeologists doing a clearance for construction of the new natural gas fired plant, which will begin producing up to 300 megawatts (MW) later this summer.  Shepard and other small farmers in the area who may have gotten power from Swan Falls during early rral electrification efforts probably never dreamed that one day their homestead would overlook the modern combined-cycle generation plant.

That’s a long way from Swan Falls, where the original power plant, once fully built, contained 10 generators that produced 10.4 MW.  The current power plant produces 25 MW using two generators.


Displays inside the 111-year-old dam offer a glimpse into what life was like just after the turn of the previous century, and visitors have an opportunity to stand next to one of the massive turbines.  Outside the dam, visitors can explore Swan Falls Park and the surrounding Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

For more information about Swan Falls and scheduling a tour after the Open House, contact Shane Baker at 388-2925.  Appointments need to be made one week in advance.

Source:  Idaho Power NewsScans, April 30, 2012 and Shane Baker, Idaho Power Senior Archaelogoist