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Five things to do at our dam visitor centres

Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre
On a visit to Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre, you'll be able to take an elevator to the top of the dam for a breathtaking downstream view of the Columbia River Valley.

Breathtaking views. History. And a whole lot more.

Just in time for National Electricity Month, we chatted with those who know our dam visitor centres best for their insights into getting the most out of what – despite our best efforts – still rank as hidden gems in B.C.

How can a dam that's three and a half times the height of Niagara Falls be a hidden gem? Your guess is as good as ours, and seeing is believing.

Stave Falls visitor centre power source
Built in 1912, the Powerhouse at Stave Falls was once B.C.'s biggest hydroelectric power source and remained in operation until a new powerhouse was built in 2000.

1. Get up close to 100-year-old turbines at Stave Falls

"My favourite exhibit at the Powerhouse at Stave Falls Visitor Centre has to be the original generators and turbines," says Janelle Comeau, a member of our visitor centre team. "We're a decommissioned powerhouse that was turned into a visitor centre in 2002, so you get to see the machinery up close. We even have a turbine that is cut open so you can the components inside. It's such a unique experience that helps you understand how power is created – because you can see each step of the process."

Learn more: Inside the Powerhouse at Stave Falls with an electric guide

2. Ride an elevator to the top of a dam

The Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre is just a few minutes away from the Trans Canada Highway and the town of Revelstoke, so a whole lot of people enjoy it en route to the Rockies. Check it out for yourself, join a guided tour, and don't miss out on the spectacular view from the dam crest lookout.

"The dam crest lookout gives you breathtaking views of the Columbia River, as well as important features of the dam and generating station such as the earthfill dam, spillway, gantry crane, switchgear building and tailrace," says visitor centre manager Lea Passaglia. "There's also an impressive topographical map of the Columbia River Basin up there. The dam itself is 175 metres tall and made of concrete. Visitors take an elevator that travels 300 feet (the equivalent of 30 storeys) from the visitor centre to the dam crest lookout."

W.A.C. Bennett Dam
Our W.A.C. Bennett Dam is one of the world's largest earthfill structures and the visitor centre offers educational exhibits that showcase dam construction, local wildlife and how we turn water into clean electricity.

3. Enjoy our all-ages Power Play water table

The W.A.C. Bennett Dam Visitor Centre is a 90-minute drive away from Fort St. John, but locals and a lot of road-tripping visitors go out of their way for a visit. And while our Power Play water table is set up to make it easy for kids to interact with, it's also a hit with adults.

"This Power Play water table encourages visitors to use pieces to create a dam and only allow enough water to come through to turn the turbines," says visitor centre manager Kiran Judge. "This hands-on activity teaches visitors about the water cycle and hydroelectricity without them even knowing it! Although it was purpose-built for our younger visitors – at a low height to make it easy for littles to reach in, big simple pieces to maneuver and no instructions to worry about – visitors of all ages thoroughly enjoy playing with it."

4. Learn how far home appliance technology has come

The Powerhouse at Stave Falls near Mission in the Fraser Valley is a National Historic Site for a reason. It not only gives you a glimpse into 100 years of hydroelectric history, it has interactive exhibits, fun demos, and a hall of antique appliances that includes a washer from around 1920.

"The visitor centre is great for people who love technology or for people who are looking for something fun to do on the weekend," says Comeau. "We have friendly tour guides who are passionate about history and technology, so you learn something new with every visit."

5. Take a bus tour across a dam, and visit our vital First Nations gallery

Taking a guided bus tour across the length of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam is on every visitor's checklist, but exhibits in the visitor centre offer deep dives into hydroelectricity and a few surprises. One that catches people off guard is the Our Story, Our Voice First Nations gallery. It's a gripping acknowledgement of how this world-renowned dam and its reservoir negatively impacted Indigenous communities in the region.

At the opening of the Our Story, Our Voice gallery in 2016, our then deputy-CEO Chris O'Riley said that while the dam was an engineering marvel at the time it was completed in 1968 and remains a source of pride for many employees, BC Hydro "deeply regrets these impacts."

"Working together with the Peace Aboriginal Advisory Committee and Kwadacha Nation, the Our Story, Our Voice gallery has been developed to capture the stories of hardship and change that the communities experienced," said O'Riley.

Dam visitor centre opening hours

  • Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, including weekends and holidays, through September 2.
  • W.A.C. Bennett Dam Visitor Centre is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, including weekends and holidays, through September 2.
  • The Powerhouse at Stave Falls is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week, through June 24. It's then open five days a week (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays) through September 11, before reopening seven days a week through October 14.