Mayfield Lake is a hydropower reservoir located on the Cowlitz River created behind Mayfield Dam. Mayfield Dam is owned by Tacoma Power and generates enough power for about 57,500 homes. Construction began in 1955 and was completed in 1962 at a cost of $44.5 million. The dam is 250 feet high (from bedrock) and 850 feet long. In order to control the lake level in order to generate power, Tacoma Power used eminent domain to acquire most of the land under and around the future lake.
The area around Ike Kinswa State Park was originally inhabited by the Cowlitz Indians. Their burial ground is located in the region. Many graves were relocated when the Mayfield Dam backed water up into the canyon. The area was originally named Mayfield Lake State Park, but the name was changed in 1971 to honor Ike Kinswa, a Cowlitz Indian who represented his people.
Water enters Mayfield Lake from the Mossyrock Dam above (which creates Riffe Lake), and exits through the turbines or over the spillway of Mayfield Dam into the Cowlitz River below. Under normal reservoir operating conditions, the maximum water level fluctuation is 10 feet. The reservoir is 13 miles long, averages about 1/2 mile wide, covers 2,250 surface acres, and has 33.5 miles of shoreline, which is mostly undeveloped. At full pool, the surface elevation is 425 feet above sea level, and the maximum depth is 190 feet in the vicinity of the dam. It is situated in an old river canyon, and is fed by snowmelt from the surrounding hills and mountains. Consequently, the reservoir is narrow, deep, generally with quickly dropping shorelines, and the entering water is cold year-around. As a reservoir with water flowing through it, the lake does not develop a thermocline; but there often is a very pronounced water temperature change at a depth of about 6 feet which you would notice if you dived off a swimming dock into deep water. This is caused by the sun warming the surface layer, while the cold water entering from Riffe Lake above tends to sink to the bottom.
The story begins in 1971 when a member of my family was looking to buy lake vacation property somewhere within driving distance of Longview, Washington. They ended up finding a one-of-a-kind piece of property on Mayfield Lake with a very special history that was for sale. The owner was named Otto Lunn and he had been the head engineer on the Mossyrock Dam which was built upstream, and right after, the Mayfield Dam was completed. Otto's story was also unique.
Otto Lunn’s father was a Danish consul general whose work took his family to assignments around the world. Otto became a civil engineer and began his career in 1925 specializing in the building of dams. In 1965 he was hired as the resident (head) engineer on the Mossyrock Dam. Around this time, he and his wife decided to buy property on Lake Mayfield in order to retire and build their home in the next few years. Now to understand how Mr. Lunn was finally able to purchase the land that would someday become Paradise Point, one must understand the politics behind building a dam.
As mentioned above the city of Tacoma bought up all of the property around the would-be lake shoreline even back a couple hundred feet and limited development on any of its land. This is why very little of the nearly 33 miles of shoreline is developed. The land that became Paradise Point was once part of a farm where the farmhouse south of Paradise Point stands. In talking with local people, we learned that at the time the dam was built, the owner of the farm was a member (and possibly the chairman) of the Dam Committee made up of local citizens. The story goes something like this, as Tacoma Power was buying up the land around the lake, they just happened to buy only a narrow piece of land from this particular farmer who was on the Dam Committee. A number of years later, Otto Lunn the lead engineer on the Mossyrock Dam bought a corner piece of land from that only farmer who was able to continue owning land very near the shoreline.
Fast forward back to 1971 and my relatives. Otto's wife had passed away and he no longer desired to build his retirement house on the property. He listed the property with very specific payment terms so that his son would have money over a number of years to pay for college. Otto had even turned down full price cash offers that did not adhere to the terms he had set forth. My relatives went and met with Mr. Lunn and on the very same day made him an offer…one that he accepted. Since then the property has seen several generations of family grow up and 40 large family reunions.