This waterway is a tributary of the San Joaquin River.

John Eastwood had the idea in the late 1800s that this would be a perfect place to set up a dam and a hydroelectric power plant. Despite some delays, including a workers strike and a suspected case of arson, the first stage of the project was completed in 1913.

Today, the vast majority of Southern California Edison’s hydroelectric power is generated right here. It’s powerhouse number one. It represents about a fifth of their total electricity generated capacity. And that’s why they call this “the hardest working water in the world”.

Here’s hot it works:

The water flows through these tubes called penstocks, falling some two thousand feet. The momentum of the water turns the turbines in the plant which generates the electricity.

The town that grew out of this project was called Cascada for a while.

That was a tip of the hat to the beautiful waterfalls that were nearby.

But in 1926 they switched the name back to match the name of the stream. That is Big Creek, on the map of Fresno County.

Oh, by the way, by the time it was completed, the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project had created more than a half dozen dams and reservoirs, but this one was the first. They call it Huntington Lake, but that’s another story.

With Josh Dean behind the camera, I’m A.J. Fox.