History at Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls is 268 feet high and undoubtedly had been a stunning sight to the native people since time immemorial. By about the mid 1860's Snoqualmie Falls became quite widely known throughout the local area by the early settlers. This portrait vignette scene of Snoqualmie Falls was made by Boyd and Braas in the early 1890's. William F. Boyd and George H. Braas operated a photography studio at 614 Front Street, in Seattle, from 1890 to 1893. Visible in the background is the railroad main line of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, built only a few years earlier in the late 1880's. The railroad access popularized the falls as a tourist attraction. The Northern Pacific Railroad acquired the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway within about five years after this scene was photographed. Later, from 1898 to 1899, an innovative underground hydroelectric power plant conceived by Charles Hinckley Baker was built by the Snoqualmie Falls Power Company in a cavern-like chamber tunneled inside the cliff beside the south side of the falls. To propel the Pelton waterwheels, direct connected to four three-phase alternating current generators, some water was diverted from above the falls through a vertical 7½-foot diameter penstock to the underground power plant chamber and then returned to the river through a tailrace tunnel extending to beside the base of the falls.

Snoqualmie Falls This historical scene, photographed by about 1908 by E.J. Siegrist, shows Snoqualmie Falls before the construction of Snoqualmie Falls Lodge. The lodge was built in 1919 on the north side of the Snoqualmie River, just above the brink of the falls. Snoqualmie Falls looks much the same today and is now one of the top tourist attractions in Washington State, with over 1.5 million visitors annually. Photographer Edward J. Siegrist, commonly noted as E.J. Siegrist, was from Wisconsin and he became a jeweler and watchmaker at the nearby town of North Bend, Washington. Edward J. Siegrist became the first treasurer of North Bend, when the town was incorporated in 1909. About a year after he became the town treasurer he moved to Concrete, Washington and worked there as a photographer, jeweler and optician from about 1910-1917.

Edward Dunlop Warbass and Hugh Allen Goldsborough, brother of Rear Admiral Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough, made a trip in 1851 to Snoqualmie Falls, led there by native guides. They measured the height of the falls and are thought to have been two of the first few settlers ever to visit there. Hugh A. Goldsborough, using the pen name Elis, wrote an article for the very first issue of the Olympia, Oregon Territory newspaper The Columbian that included a description of the trip that he and Edward D. Warbass made to Snoqualmie Falls. The article titled “Mineral Resources of Northern Oregon” was published on page 2 of the September 11, 1852 issue of The Columbian (Vol. 1, No. 1). Hugh A. Goldsborough (aka Elis) wrote in the newspaper article that, while scouting for coal deposits, he and Edward D. Warbass were persuaded to go upriver by Indians' enthusiastic praise of the lofty precipice over which the river plunged. He wrote in the article that “Thirty-six hours of alternate rowing, paddling, and poling, brought our party to the foot of the most magnificent sight which has ever yet blessed the eyes of an Oregonian.” Richard Hyatt Lansdale also visited Snoqualmie Falls in 1851, after having been told of the falls by Isaac Neff Ebey. Richard H. Lansdale, an early Whidbey Island settler, was led to Snoqualmie Falls by native guides also and after having seen the falls continued onward to explore all the way up to the top of Snoqualmie Pass.


Andrew Craig Magnuson
Forks, Washington
January 20, 2012

Revised December 21, 2014