Hike to Skagway Powerhouse

Summer 2003

by Mike Spadafora

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The following set of photographs were taken on a hike from The Skagway lake to the abandoned Skagway Powerhouse near the town of Victor, Colorado . The hike is through a very photogenic and rugged canyon along Beaver Creek which is just northwest of Pueblo, Colorado. The Skagway plant was completed in 1899 and operated till 1965 when a flood damaged the water line to the plant. The plant served the Cripple Creak and Victor mining districts. The plant provided 33 cycle power for operation of large synchronous motors in the mines. A second transmission line was built to Pueblo, CO in 1904 to bring excess power from Skagway to operate there street railway system. The 1904 line is famously known as "the Locke 25 line" in insulator collector circles being the ONLY line in the world that used the huge all glass CD 342 Locke insulators. This is NOT a hike to attempt unless you are a very experienced back packer acclimated to higher altitudes!!! The weather conditions change rapidly and the terrain is pretty extreme! Afternoon thunderstorms frequent the front range of the Colorado Rockies in the summer ....bringing potential hypothermia if you are not prepared! Also, the trail is basically non existent and not maintained .I have made six hikes to the power plant myself. On this hike Paul Greaves, and his brother met Kim Kelsey and I for this adventure... the most brutal back country line hike our hobby has to offer. The the Skagway Powerhouse was the start of the famous Locke 25 line.  +++There is NO ...I repeat NO!... access to the powerhouse site from above the powerhouse+++. A large trestle on the pen stock line that also supported the cable railroad down to the plant collapsed in the 1970's leaving a sheer cliff several hundred feet high where the bridge was. If you want to visit the plant today you have to hike in or hire a helicopter! 

The first mile or two is a mellow hike with a very gradual decent through the valley of cow pies! The total elevation drop for the entire hike to the powerhouse is about 1000 feet.

Gradually the car path vanishes into the tall grass.

Now about two miles in, the grass gives way to bushwhacking around boulders the size of Volkswagons. Me in the background Kim in front. There is very little in the way of a trail to follow from here on out .

The view from about 200 ft above the creek. At this point we have gone about another mile of bolder hopping and then had to hike up the canyon wall a ways to avoid a very narrow and dangerous part of the creek. At this point you are following an old pack trail that has seen no maintenance in 75 years!  The powerhouse is still about two miles distant down the canyon beyond the next rise in the distance. There are places on this stretch were a wrong step with a 50 pound pack will be your last!!! It is around 11am now ....nice puffy clouds.

We are heading back down from the cliff where the previous picture was taken to the creek in the bottom of the canyon. We have now bypassed the impassable stretch of the creek, just behind me both Kim and Paul's brother took a tumble down a rather steep slope, Fortunately no one was hurt but the frame on Kim's pack was trashed! Fortunately we were able to wire it together for the trip out but that pack was headed for the dumpster after that. I was really concerned for them for a moment there!!! I am looking for a way around the rocks in this picture it would be a nightmare to do this if the creek were high!!!

Jumping the creek for the sixth time, we are about 3-1/2 miles in here and all the bushwhacking is getting to us. "When will we get there" Kim asks??? " With no trail to follow, this is getting intense!! Me in the foreground, Kim on the rocks, Paul in the background.

WE MADE IT!!! We are now some five miles in with blisters and a smattering of owies. We see our new home in sight! That last 50 foot hill up to the plant site is really all we can take!  Time to relax!!! This will be home for the next few days. It is now around 2 pm. The clouds to the south east look evil but no thunderstorms yet!!! We made it in dry!!! This is the long abandon Skagway powerhouse built in 1899. The plant was abandoned in 1965 as there was no market for its 33 cycle power and the cost of repairing the flume pipe after a big flood was prohibitive.  You can't run a hydro plant without water! The next set of photos is your tour of the plant.


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