Revelstoke Dam


As I drove from Revelstoke National Park into the town of Revelstoke, I saw a sign for Revelstoke Dam.  Until that moment, I didn’t even know it existed, but it sounded like it was worth checking out, so I drove out to the dam, and took the tour.

After passing through security, I drove up to the base of the dam.  The parking area is on top of the powerhouse.  Those four giant pipes running down the side of the dam carry water to the four generating units.  The dam was designed to accommodate up to six generators — during my visit a fifth pipeline was being installed, while the sixth (on the far end) remains capped.

Revelstoke Dam just recently refurbished its visitor center.  Unfortunately, cameras aren’t allowed inside, but the security guard told me I could take pictures in the parking lot.

After paying the $6 (CAN) admission fee, I wandered around the displays in the visitor center.  No surprise, most of them were designed by BC Hydro to explain why hydroelectric power is a great thing.  While it’s definitely a one-sided presentation, it does provide a good explanation of how the dam and the power grid works.

Aside from the displays, and a few interactive exhibits for kids, there’s also a view of the generator room.  It’s not very impressive — just a big, mostly-empty room (you don’t see turbines spinning or electricity sparking).

The coolest part of the tour is the trip up to the viewing platform, atop the dam. In order to get there, you have to leave the visitor center, then enter a tunnel that passes deep into the middle of the dam.  Water drips down the walls, and trickles past your feet in gutters along the floor.  Then, an elevator takes you up to the platform.

I thought the view from the top was okay, but not spectacular, since I was looking south, into the sun.  The platform doesn’t have a great view of the lake, looking north.  The walk through the dam, to get to the elevator to the platform, was much more fun.

The Revelstoke Dam is the second dam on the Columbia River — the first is Mica Dam, 135 kilometers north of Revelstoke on Highway 23.  Revelstoke Dam went into service in 1984.  It is 175 meters high, and creates a lake that extends 130 kilometers upstream.  The dam’s 4 generators can create 1,843 megawatts.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive from Revelstoke National Park, to the dam, then back to town:

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