The Stairs Project was built in 1894-96 as the first hydroelectric power plant to provide electricity to Salt Lake City. It was also one of the first plants in Utah to transmit power long distance, using alternating current rather than direct current. In addition to the powerhouse, other elements of the historic complex include the dam, conduit, and penstock—all critical components of a hydroelectric plant. The power plant is ideally located to take advantage of the Stairs cascade on Big Cottonwood Creek.
During the late nineteenth century, a combination of technological developments, capitalist enterprise, and economic demands led to the creation of Utah’s hydroelectric power industry. Small utility companies around the state built water power plants to generate electricity, mostly for streetcar systems, mines, and other industries. Cities and small towns also consumed power for municipal, commercial, and domestic use. By the early twentieth century, a merger and consolidation movement among Utah’s utilities culminated in the formation of the Utah Power & Light Company (UP&L). In 1989, UP&L merged with PacifiCorp, an Oregon corporation, which continues to operate the Stairs Project.
This plaque marks the site of the first 44,000 volt hydroelectric plant in America. Built in 1897 by Lucien L. Nunn at an estimated cost of just $50,000, this plant harnessed the power of the Provo River to generate electricity and transmit that power over a distance of 32 miles to mining operations in Mercur, Utah. This was almost three times the voltage of any existing line in the nation at that time, and was by far the longest.
Although Nunn sold his interests to Utah Power and Light Company in 1913, his innovative ideas and successes helped shape the future of electrical power for all of us.
Nunns Park is named after L.L. Nunn, a pioneer in the field of hydroelectric power, who became the operator of the first 44,000 volt hydro-power plant in America harnessing the flows of the Provo River. Built on this site in 1897, the plant provided electricity for mining operations near Mercur, Utah. In time, Nunn sold his interests to Utah Power and Light, who eventually sold the ground to Utah County as a park site. Located alongside the Provo River Parkway and nestled in a grove of trees, Nunn’s Park offers overnight camping, picnicking, fishing, biking, jogging, and just plain escape from the traffic of life. There are plenty of family campsites on a first come, first serve basis; a pavilion can be reserved for family or group use; there are open areas just right for contemplating nothing but your favorite pastime. If you look, there are even a few reminders of the century old power plant that once turned the lights on in a remote Utah mining town and put Utah and the Provo River in the electrical history books. Public parking is limited and there is absolutely no parking on the state road or outside the county park. Groups with reservations cannot limit the public parking to only members of their group. Groups exceeding allowed parking will be asked to leave and no refund will be given.(text from utahcounty.gov)
The Olmsted Power Plant, a historic structure, was constructed in 1904 by a predecessor to Rocky Mountain Power and is still in use today. The plant generates power from water diverted from the Provo River. During the last 100 years, water has reached the plant by both wooden flume and steel pipeline.