The Bayless Pulp and Paper mill was first constructed in 1900 as industry in this area turned from sawmills to pulp and paper. It was the largest plant, and single largest employer in the area.
After suffering from a number of water supply issues, the company decided in 1909 to build a large concrete dam. Cost-cutting measures employed by the company in spite of its original design are blamed for a minor failure in January, 1910. The damage was repaired, but in September, 1911, it burst, this time flooding the valley with a loss of 78 lives.
The company and dam were both later rebuilt, but the town's population fell by almost 50% over the next 10 years. The mill was destroyed again by fire in 1933, and the dam was destroyed again in 1942, this time with no loss of life.
This was one of the locations I was really looking forward to on this trip. The tragedy surrounding the site seemed to somehow make it that much more compelling. Despite the obviously empty, crumbling condition of the ruins, I was by no means disappointed.
Incidentally, I still have a scar on my left hand as a result of a jagged piece of rebar sticking out from a very sketchy concrete stairwell. Good times!