The Northwestern Electric Company initiated work on what was to become Condit Dam in 1910. The first step was the hiring of B.C. Condit as project supervisor, and the dam design and construction firm Stone and Webster of Boston. After detailed hydrologic investigations by Condit, Northwestern Electric’s chief engineer Frank Walsh selected three dam site alternatives. The Narrows (pictured left, and located just upstream of the current surge tank) was the best site for building a tall dam with maximum hydraulic head. It remains today one of the most scenic reaches of the White Salmon. Alternate sites were “Cameron Bridge”, where the dam was eventually located, and “Jaws”, a deep canyon just upstream of the current dam near the confluence of Little Buck Creek. To gain rights to the Narrows, Northwestern Electric acquired 5 acres owned by German homesteader Charles Frick, who then returned to his homeland.
It will be fascinating to see the re-emergence of the Jaws canyon from Northwestern Lake in late October of this year. The name itself captures your attention, and also the fact that one of the only two traumatic fatalities during construction happened here. As reported in The Enterprise in spring 1912, a Greek laborer named Peter Drusete fell from a small bridge atop Jaws, smashed his head on the rocks below, and fell unconscious into the White Salmon. His body floated downstream, never to be recovered.