Who Knew: Second waterfall at Snoqualmie Falls steeped in history

Residing close to Snoqualmie Falls, we’ve stopped by often. Usually it’s just a quick trip to the viewing decks; sometimes a hike to the bottom on a nice day or a bite to eat in the Attic.

This week, though, while eating in the Salish Lodge dining room I saw something I hadn’t seen before at Snoqualmie Falls – a second waterfall. It is located directly across from Snoqualmie Falls, below the lower viewing deck.

It turns out, there was a tunnel dug over 100 years ago beneath the Salish Lodge to feed river water the penstocks (i.e. big water pipes) that deliver water down the steep hillside to PSE power plant #2, which is located along the Snoqualmie River just down stream from the Falls and power plant #1.

According to Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, the smaller waterfall (or as I dubbed it, ‘the secret waterfall’) I saw is an overflow spillway from the century-old tunnel and is rarely running. Larson thought work being done on the penstocks might be a reason the spillway waterfall was running during my summer dinner at the Salish.

Regardless, it was a treat to see this secret-not-secret waterfall, especially because the large bushes around the top of Snoqualmie Falls made it impossible to see the real Falls during my dinner.

I also managed to find a picture of my newly discovered Snoqualmie Falls in the photo archives of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, circa 1946. It was titled “Snoqualmie Falls power plant tunnel outlet with water coming out creating a second Snoqualmie Falls.” The picture was from an old photo album belonging to Mary Jane Nelson.

Additionally, we’ve included design drawings (from 1910 and 1924) for the tunnel and spillway that jets out of the rock face pictured below that creates the spillway waterfall.

Overflow outlet below Snoqualmie Falls lower viewing deck creating a second small waterfall visible from the Salish Lodge Dining room.
Design drawing from 1924 that shows the tunnel spillway outlined in red. Photo: Ty Allan
Design drawing showing the 24″ drain pipe used for the spillway for the tunnel feeding water to Snoqualmie Falls power plant 2.

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  • When the High school used to have their sports teams get pictures in front of the falls, some of us explored around. In 8th grade we were told about the history and with many parents working at the mill/ Weyerhauser, the info was passed down.

  • If you are interested in finding out more, be sure to stop by the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Museum sometime! PSE’s historic Carpenter Shop and Train Depot house the hydroelectric museum’s exhibits and museum staff can provide you with more information and history about the falls (as well as the “secret waterfall”).
    Days and Hours: Wed – Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (open Labor Day, closed Memorial Day and Fourth of July)

  • Living Snoqualmie