Southern California Edison Big Creek Hydroelectric Project

Located 60 miles north of Fresno, CA in the pristine beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains is the small town of Big Creek.  Like many small towns Big Creek has an Elementary School, a Post Office, a Church, a Volunteer Fire Department and a General Store that serves great food.  But there is something else Big Creek has to offer that other small towns don’t. 

Formally known as Cascada, and now named after a tributary of the San Joaquin River, Big Creek serves as the home to one of the largest and most extensive hydroelectric projects in the world.  Southern California Edison owns and operates this engineering feat, commonly referred to as the Big Creek Project and dubbed “The Hardest Working Water in the World.”

Location: Big Creek is located about 12 miles outside of Shaver Lake, California.  Traveling on State Route 168, turn left onto Huntington Lake Road and about 7 miles later you will arrive at your destination.  Although located at 4960 ft. elevation Big Creek is accessible year round with 4WD or chains often required during the winter months.

Read more


Latitude: 37.2050899 Longitude: -119.2427945 Elevation: 4931 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Cooper Johnson

About this Establishment

The Big Creek Hydroelectric Project first went into initial development with the help of John S. Eastwood.  He had become interested with the possibility of developing power for Fresno and was the first to recognize the power possibilities in the region. Mr. Eastwood was a true visionary and was involved with many civil engineering projects in the San Joaquin Valley and High Sierras.

He led many survey parties to find the true potential of developing a hydroelectric project in the area with one of his most prominent contributions being the invention of the multiple-arch concrete dam.  Henry Huntington’s Pacific Light & Power Corporation began phase one of the project in 1910.  During this phase three dams were constructed to form Huntington Lake Reservoir, and Powerhouses No. 1 and No. 2 were put into operation.

With Big Creek being so remote the San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad Company was organized as a subsidiary to the Pacific Light and Power Corporation. Contracted with the Stone & Webster Construction Company out of Boston, authority was given and construction began on February 5, 1912.  A short 157 days later a 56 mile railroad was completed, which is an engineering feat within itself.  In 1917 Southern California Edison absorbed Pacific Light and Power and phase two of the project began with David H. Redinger as the Resident Engineer.  The end result of the first two phases included six dams, eight tunnels (one thirteen miles long), three artificial lakes, and five powerhouses.  In 1949 phase three of the project was started.  With the completion of phase four, generating capacity went from 300,000 kilowatts to 1,288,000 kilowatts.  Today there are 6 major reservoirs, 27 dams, and 9 powerhouses generating a total of 1,000 megawatts. 


My husband and I lived at Power House 2 from 1976 to 1981...we loved it there!!

Kathryn Schamanski, 6/3/2012

I grew up in Big Creek and love returning. On my last trip I was surprised to see the power house had been named after John E. Bryson. Does anyone know what year the name was placed on the facade?

Diane Noble, 10/16/2013

Diane, that has been just in the last year, because it was not there a year ago when we were there....and we have photos to prove it.

Barbara WAIT Krueger, 10/30/2013

My family lived in the Edison camps at Big Creek from 1973- 1977. I was blessed to have experienced living in such a beautiful environment !

Gina Godfrey, 1/2/2015

I was born in Big Creek in June, 1947; reportedly the first child actually born in the town. Parents were Al and Charlene Roos. Dad worked for SCE from 1946 through 1977. We lived there until 1955. Great place to be a kid!

Marvin Roos, 1/12/2016

I went there one time to x-ray some pipes in the Turbine House. It was an amazing place. Beautiful.

patrick patterson, 1/31/2016

I was raised at Power house #3 and later at Big Creek. My sisters and I were fortunate to have such a wonderful place to grow up.

Pattie Beebe-Westmoreland, 4/7/2016

My Grandma and Grandpa Criswell raised their family in Big Creek. It's such a beautiful place.

Melissa Cordes, 4/8/2016

What's a turbine house? My husband is Joel Preheim

Tammy Preheim, 4/9/2016

My husband & I lived in unique wonderful historic Big Creek for 40 years...raised our kids...Colleen, Lynn, Jim & Gary there! We Praise God & considered it a priveledge! So many wonderful people lived!! Pete & Kay Swanson

Kay Swanson, 4/9/2016

My best memories of growing up were in Big Creek. I was so happy to call this my home from 1980 to 1985. I miss it and wish my kids knew how awesome of a place it was to live in.

Jennifer "Keep" Cortright , 5/6/2016

I grew up in Big Creek. My Dad was the District Ranger for the Pineridge District of the Sierra National Forest from 1955 through 1971. What a wonderful place to call home. I have returned many times, the most recent was 3 years ago for the Centennial Celebration of Big Creek Elementary. It was so great to see old classmates and friends.

Stan Thompson - Arizona, 5/6/2016

My mom and dad were living in Big Creek when I was born in 1954, Dad worked for SCE in Big Creek, Santa Ana canyon, Kern canyon, then back to Big Creek, have always called Big Creek home. Absolutely loved it there.

Monte Stadler , 5/6/2016

My Dad is Jim Stocks, and I had the great pleasure of being able to grow up in this great town twice. First trip was in 1972, for a brief moment of 6 months and then we came back in 1974-1980. This is truly God's country!

Allison Stocks-Miller, 5/7/2016

Our family lived in Big Creek in the 40's and 50's and looking forward and back it was the best place to grow up with hunting, fishing, hiking and skiing. We return to the Edison(old timers) picnic at shaver Lake every August to see old friend and meet new ones who grew up in the area. Ray Holm.

Raymond Holm, 5/30/2016

It is still unreal to me how all the people built all that in those days without all the equiptment that we have today. my son works for southern edison in visalia---i think edison is a very good company.. one of these days when he is not so busy he told me he would take me to big creek. right now he has been busy helping out with that fire that is going on at lake isabella....can’t wait till we go to big creek

larry dieter, 6/26/2016

My grandparents lived in big creek from middle 50s to 1962. My grandfather was Joe Mullen a nurse for the small medical facility there. I spent several summers there and still believe this was the best summers of my life. I am from soca but as a child I wish all kids could have this experience. robin mullen 08/10/2016

robin mullen, 8/10/2016

I, like so many of you, have fond memories of growing up in Big Creek and spending summers with my dad as he worked in Florence Lake. My dad, Don Christenson, always thought of Big Creek as home (he started working for SCE, encouraged by cousin Cecil Wright, when he was 19 -1938) even after retirement and moving away. Dad's been gone for a few years now, but I will forever be grateful he gave us the opportunity to be kids in a tiny town called Big Creek.

Kathy Christenson-Orr, 11/25/2016

I washed dishes and worked the grounds for several summers at Camp Sierra during my high school year in the 1950s. Others on the crew would hike up to the old rail line and run along to Big Creek school in the evening and bowl, a nickle a line if we set the pins ourselves. Matoons supplied the store at Camp Sierra on their run on up to Big Creek, every Wednesday, a I recall. The big dome rock at the end of town was a constant companion in our view up into the heights.

Bill Westfall, then Fresno, now Richmond, VA., 1/16/2017

Had no idea that Don Christenson was a cousin to Cecil and learn!! Barbara Wait Krueger, Hartland, MI 2/21/2017

Barbara Wait Krueger, 2/21/2017

My father was born at Big Creek in 1913. We presume his father worked on building at the site.

Viv Gellert, New Zealand, 3/27/2017

I lived in Big Creek from 1949 to 1961. We moved into the house at center field in the old ball diamond in 1949. The house has been removed and replaced. I went to grammar school in Big Creek and to Sierra High School. It was a great place to grow up and go to school. Our family usually spends a week in shaver lake every summer.

Jon Aubuchon, 5/15/2017

Totally want to move from prather area to dam number 7 area .. So peaceful

Kt, 5/19/2017

I lived at powerhouse 2 with my family the Martins from 1973 to 1975..the best childhood memories ever!!

Keith Martin Fontana Ca 09/2017, 9/4/2017

Wow, neat to see some of the names here. My Dad is Lee Morris and he was a lifetime Edison employee. I was born in Bishop in 67, then he moved us to Big Creek from about 69 through 75. I remember the Godfreys (Keith might have been in my grade?) the Preheims, and I believe Allison Stocks was our neighbor and friends with my sister Leesa. Sure miss that really was a blessing to experience the area, even if for such a brief time.

George Morris, 9/27/2017

Wow! Such a beautiful blast from the past! Yes, George -very neat to see so many names and bring back the memories of growing up so extremely blessed in the mountains. I went to school there from 1972-1978. Mr. Boswell was my 3rd and 6th grade teacher-he was great! We went skiing for PE once a week and on snowy days learned to bowl in the school’s own bowling alley. My dad, Jack Dobson, was the shop foreman at the SCE garage in Big Creek. My brother was Rey. Dad passed in 2014 but my mom, June, still lives in the house we were raised in. Big Creek was always very peaceful and a friendly town- like one big family!

Cindy Dobson, 11/22/2017

Grew up there.....lived at Big Creek, Powerhouses 2, 8, and 3. Best life a child could have. It is part of my heart. We lived there from 1952 until my dad retired,(Charles Shirk). Love that place dearly.

Linda Shirk, 1/7/2018

We moved to Big Creek in 1945 after my dad was discharged from the Navy. My brother Marvin was born in BC in 1947. I graduated 8th grade from BC Elementary in 1955 and we moved to LA. My Dad retired from SCE in the early 70's after our mom died. I remember the names Don Christensen and Cecil Wright. How about the Kent family? Swimming lessons at Shaver Lake? Dad took our family back to a SCE reunion in the early 90's at Shaver Lake. Now it's hard to believe that way of life even existed.

Sharon Roos Tanner, 1/20/2018

I was born in Big Creek, March 4, 1947.As I look back on all of the pictures we have, fond memories flood back ..learning to swim in ice cold water, sledding, looking for rattle snakes and a great sense of freedom and wonder. It was a great first six years!

Catherine C. Doern (Nee Wathey), 4/7/2018

Like so many of you I too remember Big Creek with Love in my heart. The memories are endless. I grew up on Poplar Street with my 2 sisters Chris Ann and Rhonda Tudor. I am Penny Sale now. As a little girl we ran the few little streets of the town. We went to baseball games down by the commissary. We hiked up the penstock (straight up). As a little girl I called the book "Jack and the Penstock. For all of us that had the fortunate opportunity to live in this small but Famous Company town I share a deep and unforgettable love of Big Creek. Also I loved Powerhouse #8 where I lived from the age of 10 to 19. Powerhouse 8 was really really small. Not much to do but hike the beautiful canyons with my sister and my dog. None of us will ever forget the beauty and the experience of growing up in Big Creek.

Penny (Tudor) Sale, 4/25/2018

Yeah, I count myself among all of you that feel so blessed to have grown up in Big Creek. My family lived there from '56 to '77. My dad worked for the forest service and we live in the forest service house next to the school for most of that time. So many great memories of running around Big Creek, hiking the penstocks, and going to the creeks, especially the "slides" and weir. I don't think a kid could have a better place to grow up! I have a niece that lives there and I can tell that that sense of community is still there for the people who live there now! Whenever I see a picture of Big Creek it's like seeing an old friend.

Mark Criswell, 6/15/2018

David H. Redinger was my Great Uncle. As a very young child I visited he and my Aunt Dee at the Big Creek house. Hope to visit again in 2019 to relive the memories.

Helen McIntire Heinlein, 7/28/2018

All these names from my past!. I lived in Big Creek and at the Edison house at Shaver from 1946 to 1953. All five Wright's attended Big Creek school. (We were on the bus that had a head-on "meeting" with a very large truck between Big Creek and Shaver. )Dad was Cecil Wright, Mom was Jean. Brothers Mac and Russell, sisters Barbara and Ginni. So many memories of adventures growing up in such a unique place.

Tom Wright, 12/18/2018

Gorgeous spot, wonderful memories! Recognized a lot of these names, Don Christenson, Jim and Dennis Stocks, Kathi and Roy Schmanski, Byron Godrey, Paul Bierbower, Jerry & Mary Street! Work at Powerhouse 1-2-2a-8 1976 to 1982

Ray Hoover, 12/26/2018

My parents were Loretta and Lawrence Hollis. We moved to PH2-2A in the Summer of 1943 from Las Vegas. I went to Chawanakee No. 1 from the 2nd thru 6th grades. As a city kid it was all a new adventure learning to swim at the swimming hole on Big Creek by the Club House and following the Meinhold boys around the hills as they tended their traps and learned how to deal with rattle snakes. I learned carpentry at the wood shop at school taught by Mr. Barton the Principal. It was a sad time to leave in 1948 when my Dad transferred to the Steam Division in Long Beach. Barbara Wait Krueger was too young to remember my weekly visit to deliver eggs produced by my pet hens The annual Old Timers picnic brings back old memories even though most of my classmates have passed or can't attend any more.

Ron Hollis, 12/31/18, 12/31/2018

I was born in Shaver Lake in 1951, but lived at Powerhouse #2 for 15 years and attended Chawanekee #1 - first through eighth grade with 28 total students. As I read all the familiar names above, the people, the community and the location were the best.

Rick Hudson, 5/30/2019

I grew up from baby to adult. I am a second generation and currently have third and fourth generation family members still living there. Went to school there from kindergarten when Ms Alexeranda became Mrs. Rose. It was truly a remarkable place to grow up in. I have very fond memories of Big Creek and all that lived there. I see comments from some of those kids I grew up with and it brings a smile to my face. Rick Hudson you lived in Big Creek one in a house just above me. I love to visit Big Creek whenever I can. It is home to me.

Patti Griffith Overacker , 7/12/2019

I worked on the "Shaft" part of the operation. I was down about 555 ft towards the goal of 900 ft

Mike Stewart, 11/16/2019

Leave a Comment