PGE owned the property around Austin Hot Springs for many years. Have you ever wondered why? It's not near any of its hydroelectric projects, so how and why did they come to own it?
There are two stories in the history books about this, quite different from each other. One is that surveyors for the company were out searching for a potential damsite and came upon the hot springs. The company saw future possibilities and purchased the site from Seth Austen. That would have been 1913 or earlier as Seth Austen is reported to have died in 1913.
The other story is that R.W. Cary, who had purchased the property from Seth Austen, objected to PGE's 1926 application for water rights to divert water upstream at Big Bottom. PGE (or PEPCO at that time) was proposing to build a dam on the Clackamas River and divert flows to the Oak Grove Fork via a 3-mile-long tunnel as part of the Oak Grove hydroelectric project. Cary was operating a recreational camp at the hot springs, calling it Cary's Hot Springs. Cary subsequently sold his interest in the property to PEPCO in 1928, followed by his partner selling his interest to them a month later. PEPCO then went ahead and obtained the necessary government approvals for the Big Bottom project in 1929.
It wasn't until 1950, when a road was constructed along the Clackamas in that area, that PGE developed the site as a recreation area with picnic tables, fireplaces and outhouses. This was their first venture into recreation facilities on the Clackamas. I'm not sure when those facilities were abandoned.
Does anyone have any additional information about any of this?
I'm curious as to where you found the two competing "stories" for the original ownership?
Also, I thought I had heard that PGE sold Austin to a private group and there was talk of developing it into some sort of resort? Or maybe I'm confusing it with something else.
I guess I was right, although the timing was off - from our own Bryon Boyce in 2015:
According to Clackamas County, ownership hasn't changed since 2000. Whoever owns it is getting a good deal on the property taxes! It seems like maybe they should adjust the market value since it sold for so much more than the value listed by the county. Maybe they paid too much and that's all it's really worth? If they build anything out there, I'm sure the assessed value will go up a lot.
Jurisdiction: Clackamas County
Map Number: 67E
Taxlot Number: 67E 03100
Parcel Number: 01136167
Document Number: 2000-076373
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