Hat Creek Power

Hat Creek No. 1
Hat Creek Powerhouse No. 1, 1921. Courtesy of Lola L. Tanner

The Red River Lumber Company operated many enterprises and it still as an influence concerning electricity to many residents of the region. From time to time when the Susanville area has a power outage, many times there will be a reference to the Hat Creek line. So you may ponder how did Hat Creek come to be?

In May 1920, Red River purchased Susanville’s Lassen Electric Company to provide that community with their power needs. Red River with its  own power plant and with a hydro plant at Hamilton Branch had an abundant supply of power, so hence an opportunity to generate extra revenue. In the meantime, Susanville was experiencing tremendous growth as its population doubled in a few short years. [1]

Red River found itself in a predicament which it needed a quick solution to meet the increasing power needs. After careful examination it was determined that there was enough water from Hamilton Branch to double the capacity of their hydro-plant. To provide a consistent water flow throughout the summer, the water would have to be impounded in a reservoir. In the summer of 1922 work began on the Indian Ole dam just southwest of Westwood. The new reservoir was designated Mountain Meadows Reservoir, but the locals called it Walker Lake. As an added bonus the new lake, covering some 5,000 acres, provided additional recreational activities for the residents.[2]

The quest for more electricity did not end there. Red River sought out a third power supply. Fifty-five miles north, at Hat Creek, Shasta County, Red River had acquired considerable property and water rights during its acquisition of timberlands. In 1920 Pacific Gas & Electric Company had begun work on developing its Pit River powerhouses near Hat Creek. The two companies negotiated a deal to build two power plants on Hat Creek. In exchange for the land and water rights Red River would receive up to 9,300 horsepower of electricity in perpetuity. Initially, Red River used that power for its mill at Bella Vista, Shasta County—a short-lived Red River operation In March 1925 a transmission line from Hat Creek to Westwood was completed.[3]

[1] In 1930, Red River sold Lassen Electric to California Pacific Utilities.

[2] On April 10, 1925, William Klotz became the lake’s first drowning victim.

[3] In 1944, when Red River sold to Fruit Growers, the Hat Creek power agreement was cancelled.

2 thoughts on “Hat Creek Power”

  1. Thanks so much for this information, Tim. We occasionally travel to Reno/Carson City and have often wondered about Poison Lake. It was also fun to find out about Hat Creek Power and Fruit Gowers entry into the area.

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