JC Boyle Powerhouse Switches, Leah Wilson

Ice covers the dirt road. There is no place to stop or park. We can’t drive to the river or even walk there so we try to turn around. The four-wheel-drive pickup trucks do not stop for us as the wheels spin on a patch of ice. Finally, there is a little traction and we can move again.

We stop on a side road leading down to the bottom of the JC Boyle Powerhouse. We abandon the vehicle and walk to the river. White, aerated water gushes out of one tube, yellow ochre water gushes from the one adjacent to it. Ice, like stalagmites, covers the water below from the drips and spray. Fences, tubes, metal, and switches underscore that this place where the river flows again is not natural.

Dams fascinate me. We build large walls to hold the water back. We try to tame the water so we can control how much and when it flows. This contradicts the nature of water which is to constantly flow. Dams make me uneasy.

Once I plodded down a long flight of metal stairs angling across the downstream side of a dam. Concrete and rebar held the water back. From my vantage point on the stairs, I should have been engulfed in water. Uneasiness never subsided while I was on the other side of a wall from the water pushing against it. Uneasiness intermingles with thrill. This was an unearned thrill, one I did not earn.

Dam (Link River)

Dam – Link River (Klamath)​, Leah Wilson

Dams attract me. Yet I want them gone. Cognitive dissonance creates more uneasiness. I will miss them when they are gone. This is not something to say out loud, so I whisper it in my head.


Irrigation at Pine Meadow Ranch​, Leah Wilson

Upstream the water slows again. I stand on riprap next to a bridge watching Tim throw rocks. They clatter and skid on the ice. Underneath the water flows slowly until it reaches the next concrete wall that stops its movement until it creeps down into a tube and gushes back out the other side. 




The river eventually finds the ocean.


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