Life in the Northwest
11:57 am
Wed October 12, 2011

'A paradise of light in the wilderness' returns to City Light

City Light's Skagit Hydroelectric Project isn't just a source of power – it's a work of art.

The municipally owned utility's first superintendent, J. D. Ross, installed a light show at Ladder Creek Falls in Newhalem back in the 1920s and 30s. He called it "a paradise of light in the wilderness" and made it part of his campaign to sell Seattle residents on the value of the Skagit project.  

Over the years, the lights slowly fell into disrepair and finally went dark in 2004. But, seven years and more than a million dollars later, the lights came back on this week. City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco says he's pleased to continue the tradition for a new generation.

"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.”

The restored light show uses just a fraction of the electricity required by the original display.

LEDs over spotlights

According to City Light, about 30 programmable, energy efficient LED light fixtures were installed to replace the old 1,000 watt spotlights. The new lights use about 90 percent less electricity than the original fixtures. The LEDs can be individually programmed to any color for any length of time, proving an almost unlimited number of options. 

The light show lasts 15 minutes and repeats throughout the evening.

Ladder Creek Falls is a part of the Newhalem Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You can find more pictures of the lights at the City Light website.