Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek

Exploring the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area: Moose Pass: Pelton Wheel


Location:    Moose Pass: Water wheel and park across the street

Short Description:      The town of Moose Pass was originally established as a supply point for miners on their trek to the gold fields and for the construction of the railroad. However, it is the community spirit and lovely setting along Upper Trail Lake that maintains the community.

Required Equipment: None

Suggested Equipment: None

Safety Consideration: Sites lay on either side of busy highway.  Use caution.

Other Info: Great place for lunch and to hang on the grass next to lake shore.

Possible Instructional Strategies:


There are several instructional opportunities at this site: however, perhaps the strongest of all is the power of community. There are three sites at this stop: the water wheel next to the Estes Store, the interpretative panel next to the shelter for the annual Solstice Festival, and the pleasant park next to the lake. All of these are results of the Moose Pass community working together on a common vision.

The Case of the Water Wheel

A stop at the Moose Pass water wheel is worth it on so many levels. It provides an opportunity to see how the energy of water can be harnessed but mostly it speaks to the resiliency of community.

The original pelton wheel was built in 1928 to supply electricity to town. It must have been quite successful for it continued to power the town up to 1956. It was restored in 1964 to provide electricity to the adjacent Estes Store.  In 1980 a 10 foot water wheel was constructed with the help of local mechanics and welders. It was maintained with considerable effort by Ed Estes but then fell upon disrepair at his passing.

It has recently been restored again with the determination and spirit of the Moose Pass community. As the grindstone suggests: “If you have an ax to grind– do it here.”