A Brief History of Lake Cushman


In 1852 an explorer and adventurer, B.F. Shaw, pushed his way through the dense forest west of Hood Canal and discovered a long narrow lake at an elevation of 500 feet. Shaw named the body of water Lake Cushman in honor of his friend Orrington Cushman, a picturesque Maine logger known as "Devil Cush."

The lake remained relatively untouched and unsettled, except for a few hunters, until 1888. It was not until 1890 that an eight-mile road was constructed between Hoodsport and Lake Cushman. Pioneers felt the contractor had merely crumpled the salal brush for the road. Gradually the road was improved, and in 1908 the first automobile made the trip from Hoodsport to Lake Cushman.

In 1888, iron deposits were discovered which caused a great deal of excitement. The mountains surrounding Lake Cushman swarmed with prospectors looking for a way to strike it rich. It soon became apparent the strikes were not as rich as first rumored and most of the miners faded out of existence.

In 1899, a hotel called the Antlers Hotel was constructed and many famous people of that time were guests. Many came to Lake Cushman to enjoy hiking, camping, fishing and hunting or just to enjoy the beauty of the area. Steamers from Seattle and Tacoma arrived at Hoodsport and from there guests would be taken by stage to the lake and the hotel.

In early 1912, a man named Wickstrom applied for a power franchise lease from Mason County. Seattle was looking at several dam sites to increase the amount of available electricity for the city. After much debate, Seattle engineers decided to go ahead on the Cushman Dam, and it was put to a vote of the Seattle citizens in March 1912. It passed; however, in 1913 Seattle abandoned its plans.

In 1920 Tacoma filed for a lease for the same site and the lease was granted. Logging began in 1920, followed by dam construction. When the dam was completed in 1926, it formed the largest reservoir in the west except for Roosevelt Dam in Arizona. At time of completion, Cushman Dam was 275 feet higher than the tallest building in Tacoma. Two men died during construction. In May 1926, President Calvin Coolidge in Washington, D.C. pushed a button that started the generating machinery.

In 1966 the Lake CushmanCorporation obtained a 99-year lease from Tacoma Public Utilities and the Lake Cushman Development came into existence. There are approximately 53 miles of road; five parks with water access; a 9-hole golf course; its own water system; a volunteer fire department and a security patrol-all in support of approximately 3000 lots or parcels, sub-leased by approximately 2500 families. There are about 800 permanent residents, and many who spend vacations and weekends enjoying the area.

In 1992 the sub-lessees decided to become a self-governed body. 
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