September 24, 1971: Aerial Rescue at Waugh Lake Dam

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

An Army team used a test UH-1N helicopter to rescue a Southern California Edison Company inspector who had fallen from a dam at Waugh Lake. The Twin Huey was assigned here to support high altitude performance and flying qualities testing at Bishop. The helicopter saved rescuers from an 18-mile trek into and out of an inaccessible gorge. This was the third time this year that Army personnel had used a test vehicle for “live” rescue missions.

Southern California Edison Company was the owner of power dams on the Rush Creek series of lakes, Alger, Gem and Waugh Lakes. In 1977, the company made plans to repair the uppermost dam located at Waugh Lake in the Minaret Wilderness Area. The elevation of Waugh Lake is about 9,500. The repairs to the face of the dam required 500 tons of sand and cement at the dam site. Because of provisions of the 1964 Wilderness Act, the Forest Service would not issue a permit for the material to be transported into the site by helicopter. The hauling of sand and cement had to be accomplished in time for the project to be completed before winter’s cold weather prevented concrete work to continue. Packers with strings of sturdy pack mules could be used to provide that service.

A contract was signed between Southern California Edison Company and three pack stations: Frontier Pack Station, Red’s Meadow Pack Station and Rock Creek Pack Station. The three contracting pack stations plus Leavitt Meadows Pack Station, Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit and McGee Creek Pack Station agreed to haul the sand and cement to the storage site located at the dam. The contract had to be completed in ninety days. Each of the six pack stations contributed packers, pack mules and horses.

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