BC Hydro's a big player on the Campbell River
BC Hydro's John Hart Generating Station is on the Campbell River, just a few minutes from the town of Campbell River. The river is a great place for such activities as camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, fishing, kayaking, tubing, sight-seeing and nature appreciation.
The facilities along the Campbell River system not only generate electricity, but also contribute to the surrounding communities by providing such services as flood control, domestic water supply and recreation.
On March 7, 2000 the Province of B.C. officially recognized the Campbell River as a BC Heritage River. In recognizing this river, the government has acknowledged its cultural and economic heritage while endorsing the concept of a working river where economic activities are compatible with natural heritage and recreational values.
Where it is and how to get there
The John Hart Generating Station is located just a few minutes away from the town of Campbell River. Use Google map links for directions to the powerhouse, to the John Hart Project Interpretive Centre and Elk Falls and to the popular Canyon View Trail.
The Discovery Centre is located off Brewster Lake Road, immediately on the right after turning off of Highway 28 when travelling towards Gold River from Campbell River. It is about seven kilometres from downtown Campbell River. Through a partnership with the Museum at Campbell River, the Discovery Centre provides an in-depth history of local hydroelectric projects built in the 1940s and 1950s. The Discovery Centre was built in 2013 and plans to be in place through 2028 for on-going community engagement on other capital projects on the Campbell River hydroelectric system.Visiting the Centre is free, and combined with a walk in Elk Falls Park, is a perfect outing for the day. Get directions here.
The Discovery Centre opening days and times vary by time of year:
- May 15 to September 30: Wednesday to Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- October 1 to November 30: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- December 1 to January 30: closed
- February 1 to May 14: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
We ask visitors to follow all signage, maintain safe physical distances, and practice good hygiene when visiting the Discovery Centre and Elk Falls area. Visitors are asked to self-assess and to delay their visit if they are exhibiting possible symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in recent close contact with someone who is ill. There are capacity and COVID protocols within the Discovery Centre.
Rated on TripAdvisor as the No. 1 of more than 40 things to do in Campbell River, a visit to Elk Falls just got better a few years ago with the addition of a suspension bridge and viewing platform that has made views of the falls much better (and safer).A short family-friendly hike from the parking lot, via the Millennium Trail, gets you to Elk Falls. But there are a variety of other trails for those who want to do further exploration on the park.
Trails & safety information
The Canyon View Trail is a scenic 6-kilometre circular hike through West Coast forest along the Campbell River. The route makes a good family outing and takes about one and a half hours to complete.
BC Hydro's trailhead is located at the John Hart Generating Station off Highway 28.
The west end of the trail crosses the canyon on an 80-foot walkway which camouflages the natural gas pipeline running beneath it.
At the east end of the trail, hikers cross the Campbell River using the logging road bridge (watch out for industrial traffic).
The Quinsam River is crossed using the Highway 28 bridge.
Hikers should use extreme caution when crossing the Quinsam and Campbell River bridges as vehicular traffic may be present.
The trail through BC Hydro property is provided for your use and enjoyment. Please respect the facilities and natural environment by observing the following rules:
- Please obey all warning signs.
- Please keep the area clean by depositing all refuse in the containers provided.
- Overnight camping is prohibited.
- Open from 8 a.m. to dusk.
- Open fires are not allowed along the trail.
- Ensure proper footwear is being worn.
- Please keep all pets on a leash and under control.
- Please stay on the trail to minimize your environmental impact.
- No mountain biking allowed.
Be aware, as water levels can change quickly
The John Hart Dam and Powerhouse is an active electric plant. Dam operations cause water levels in the Campbell River to fluctuate frequently which may be hazardous for anyone in the river channel.
Warning sirens will sound whenever there is a danger of water levels rising quickly. Please heed all warning signs, and when warning sirens sound, please leave the river channel immediately.
History & hydroelectric information
The John Hart Dam & Powerhouse was completed in 1947 by the BC Power Commission, BC Hydro's predecessor. Water is carried by three penstocks to the six unit, 126 MW powerhouse located downstream from Elk Falls.
Three large surge towers are in place to prevent the penstocks from bursting during periods of low production when the flow gates are closed.
John Hart Dam, along with the Strathcona and Ladore dams further upstream make up the Campbell River hydroelectric system. Today, these three facilities produce about 11% of Vancouver Island's electrical supply.
Major upgrades at John Hart
Built in 1947, John Hart Generating Station is aging, and needs to be replaced.
The existing facility and pipelines are unlikely to withstand a moderate earthquake. A new facility will benefit from years of learning about seismic safety. The existing generating station is in poor condition and electricity output is less than optimal and is declining. A new facility, with new equipment, will be more efficient and more reliable.