There is a ton of history through the Truckee Canyon. Driving along I-80 in either direction, there are various old buildings and structures that may catch your eye. One of those eye-catching structures is the old Farad Hyrdoelectric Power Plant, built in 1899 by the Truckee River General Electric Company to help power silver mines in the area. The plant ran until 1997 (nearly 100 years) until a flood ended all operations.
Originally, water from the Truckee River entered a flume upriver from Farad at Floriston. The diverted water flowed from Floriston to the plant and powered the turbines within the plant’s powerhouse. The turbines generated electricity from there.
Access to the power plant is for foot traffic only. Exiting I-80 at Farad provides access to a small parking lot immediately to the right of the eastbound I-80 exit. Hikers (or runners, mountain bikers, dogs, etc.) can pass under the gate marked with Tahoe Pyramid Trail signs and walk along an open space adjacent to the Truckee River. About 500 feet down (and visible from the parking lot) sits the ol’ power plant.
Foot traffic can pass between the powerhouse and the forebay up top. Wooden stairs and a bridge will take travelers through the plant and beyond to the path from Farad to Floriston (about 2.3 miles one-way). Alongside the path is the wooden flume.
If you’re interested in getting up close and personal with the other end of the flume, prepare for some bush-whacking. We actually drove to Floriston and took the Tahoe Pyramid Trail for a small bit, then branched off to see the river diversion structure, and finally wandered through lots of shrubs and weeds and trees to get to the flume’s end.
Recently the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) took ownership of the Farad power plant, though there are no plans to reconstruct it. This RGJ article provides helpful information about possible plans for the plant.