Located on the Oconaluftee River in Ela, about five miles east of town, the Bryson City hydroelectric plant was constructed for the town in 1924-25.
It was purchased from the Town of Bryson City by Nantahala Power and Light (now Duke Energy) in 1942. The sale was approved by the town board and then by the majority of the registered voters. The town had been trying to sell the hydro plant since the late 1930s. It includes a multiple-arch type concrete dam, originally known as Oconaluftee Dam, and a power house with two turbines and generators. The 36 feet high and 341 feet long dam still generates electricity for the Duke Energy system.