Focus on Local – Confluence Park
Head out state Route 9 just north of LaVerkin across Hurricane Bridge and you’ll find an older building up by Confluence Park. This older, run down home used to be a hydroelectric plant. If you’re looking to explore St. George and the southern Utah area, take a drive up to Confluence Park where the La Verkin and Ash Creeks feed into the Virgin River. There are multiple trails and places to explore. You’ll find areas that are 100 years old to several hundred years old as well as a Native American cave dwelling, which provided shelter to a group of people known as the Virgin Anasazi. A local archaeology excavation revealed evidence of daily life for the Native Americans including different weapons, ropes, tools, and rawhide.
But they weren’t the only ones who inhabit the area. In the 1600s the Paiutes inhabited the area and grew a variety of agricultural crops such as squash, melon, and corn.
By the late 1770s up until the 1850s, many Latter-Day Saints apostles explored the area and settled throughout southern Utah. Toqureville was established in 1858 and the confluence area was once again used for cultivation and agriculture. Some of the earlier settlers grew corn, sugarcane, and alfalfa and there are reports of early settlers referring to the area as “River Field”.
The towns of Hurricane and LaVerkin were not settled until the early 20th century but this is when dairy farming and power generation really took off. You don’t need a large hydroelectric dam like the Hoover dam or Glen Canyon Dam to generate enough power for a small town. In 1928, Dixie Power was granted permission to build a 899 kW capacity hydroelectric plant at the bank of the Virgin River. By 1929, the plant was completely operational. Water channeled from the LaVerkin Canal through the pipes to power the hydroelectric generator. It was actually the largest plant in the network of four hydroelectric plants within Washington County providing all the electricity needed for the towns of Hurricane, Virgin, Rockville, Springdale, Toquerville, and La Verkin.
The plant operated from 1958 until 1983. The main operator worked for California Pacific utilities, which was later bought out by Utah Power and Light offering electricity to southern Utah. The plant closed down abruptly and to this day, there are really no definite answers as to why. Two theories include that lightning could’ve caused the power shut off and the deflector plate may have failed to follow the place to prevent damage and completely ruined the plant. Other theories state that disgruntled former employees could have demolished it. Regardless, rebuilding was unfeasible and most of the machinery and pipe were sold as scrap.
However, today, Washington County, which currently owns the park, plans to restore the old power plant and provide interpretive signage to tell the story. But you can always go and visit the area and hike some of the many trails surrounding this unique area. Confluence Park is located in the bottomlands between Hurricane and La Verkin. It’s a protected natural area managed by Washington County through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve office.
Other improvements will be access to a footbridge across the river to connect the Hurricane and LaVerkin sides. But hikers will continue to find fantastic trails, cave dwellings, a completely intact granary use for a former turkey farm, and access points to the river. It’s definitely something to explore if you live here and haven’t yet adventured out to Confluence Park. [Read More on the History Here]