Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living



The California Powder Works Flume
by Barry Brown

Photograph of the CPW Flume
The CPW Flume
Photograph from the Hagley Museum & Library, Wilmington, DE

On March 26, 1864, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported:

The works of the Powder Mill approach completion. The workmen are laboring on the flume night and day and the water will be let in next week and the manufacture of powder will commence soon afterwards.

The flume that you see in the picture above ran from this point on York Ave. to an area just left of the Covered Bridge, a distance of over 300yds. It then made a turn north paralleling the river another 200yds. and providing waterpower to various mills in the main plant (see Historical Marker #7) along the way. Looking closely at the center left side of the flume, one can see a smaller enclosed flume running down hill to ground level. This lower flume supplied water to drive the large Wheel Mills located on York and Knight Templar streets (see Historical Markers #4 and 5).

To estimate the actual height of this structure, find the man standing left of center in the lower third of the picture on the first rung of the flume. Assuming his height is 6ft., the flume can be calculated to have been approximately 40ft. high.

The flumes were eventually torn down after steam and then electricity replaced water power as the main source of energy running the Powder Works.


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View similarly tagged articles:

dynamite, powder works, San Lorenzo River

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