Tumwater Falls

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Tumwater Falls
Upper twfalls night.jpg
Upper Tumwater Falls
Location Tumwater, Washington, United States
Coordinates 47°00′53″N 122°54′17″W / 47.0147°N 122.9046°W / 47.0147; -122.9046 (Tumwater Falls)Coordinates: 47°00′53″N 122°54′17″W / 47.0147°N 122.9046°W / 47.0147; -122.9046 (Tumwater Falls)
Total height 82 ft (25 m)[1][2]
Number of drops 2
Longest drop 25 ft (7.6 m)[3]
Watercourse Deschutes River
flow rate
400 cu ft/s (11 m3/s)

Tumwater Falls are a series of cascades on the Deschutes River in Tumwater, Washington, United States, near where the river empties into Budd Inlet, a southerly arm of Puget Sound in Olympia.


The Deschutes River carved a course through glacial debris left after the Pleistocene ice age until it reached volcanic bedrock, forming the falls as it coursed down to Puget Sound.[4]


Lower Tumwater Falls emptying into Capitol Lake adjacent to the old Olympia Brewery

Tumwater Falls was the site of New Market, the first European settlement in Western Washington. It was also the site of the now-defunct Olympia Brewing Company.

Olympia Light and Power Company constructed a dam and a hydroelectric power plant at the falls in 1890, a decade before the Snoqualmie Falls powerplant outside Seattle.[5]:23 The plant powered an Olympia–Tumwater streetcar, among other things.[6][7] A dam at 82 feet (25 m) above sea level created a head for the powerhouse and still stands on the Deschutes River.[2]

The Tumwater Falls created an impassable barrier to salmon until 1952, when a fish ladder was built by the Washington Department of Fisheries (now the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife), to provide salmon access to the newly constructed fish hatchery located immediately above the falls. Prior to the 1952 hatchery operations, the Deschutes river above the Tumwater Falls was a river system free of the influence of migrating and spawning salmon, an unusual ecological occurrence in the riparian systems of Puget Sound.

In 1962, Olympia Brewing Company donated 15 acres (6.1 ha) of land surrounding the falls to the Olympia-Tumwater Foundation, and Tumwater Falls Park was created. The park receives 200,000 visitors annually.[1][4]

Upper falls from Tumwater Falls Park

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tumwater Falls Park, Olympia Tumwater Foundation, retrieved 2015-07-06 
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Tumwater Falls Dam
  3. ^ Bryan Swan, "Tumwater Falls", Northwest Waterfall Survey, retrieved 2015-07-06 
  4. ^ a b Emmett O'Connell (September 14, 2012), "Tumwater Falls Park Celebrates 50 Years", Thurston Talk 
  5. ^ Lockman, Heather; Wulfsberg, Carla (2010), Images of America: Tumwater, Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 9780738581279 
  6. ^ Asahel Curtis (c. 1906), "Hydroelectric power plant of Olympia Light & Power Co., Deschutes River, at Tumwater Falls, Tumwater", Asahel Curtis collection, University of Washington digital collections, retrieved 2015-07-06 
  7. ^ Olympia Light and Power, Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, October 5, 2014 

External links[edit]