Trip 107 - June of 2016

W.A.C. Bennett Dam Visit

Near Hudson's Hope BC


Location:
Northeastern British Columbia, approximately 20 kilometers West of Hudson's Hope.

Liked: Dam views, natural views while driving on the dam, the underground dam tour, humane price of admission.

Of note: Open seasonally, bags not allowed in the visitor centre, bags and water not allowed on the bus tour, video recording not allowed in the visitor centre and on the tour, hard hats (provided by BC Hydro) will have to be worn while touring the dam, the dam tour is somewhat short. If itís slow, you may be on a tour alone with two guides and a security guard by your side.

Northern BC Backroad Mapbook (3rd edition) Coordinates: Page 65 (Hudson's Hope) F6. The latest edition of Backroad Mapbook for this and other regions, as well as GPS maps, are available at BackroadMapbooks.com.

Related Website: W.A.C. Bennett Visitor Centre.

Other trips in Hudson's Hope area: Battleship Mountain Trail Hike, Bullhead Mountain Trail Hike, Butler Ridge Hiking Trail.

W.A.C. Bennett dam is the biggest dam in British Columbia, and provides much of the electricity we use in our province. This trip report describes our visit to the dam, including the visitor centre, underground tour of the dam, and the drive across the dam to the viewpoint on the other side.

1. First, you need to get to a tiny town of Hudson's Hope, located on Highway 29 in Northeastern British Columbia between Chetwynd and Fort St. John. Once in Hudson's Hope, follow directions to the dam - it's 20 kilometers to the West from there.


Hudson's Hope British Columbia Canada

2. To get to the dam you would take Canyon Drive. At about the 15 km mark there is a split, where you need to go left. To the right is 12 Mile Road, which would lead to Bullhead Mountain trail and Butler Ridge trail.


Canyon Drive at Twelve Mile Road by Hudson's Hope BC Canada

3. Just over four kilometers later, you are at the dam security gate. Security guards will write down your vehicle plate and your driver's license information prior to letting you through. By going through this gate you would reach the visitor centre, can drive on top of the dam towards the boat launch or a viewpoint, and can also drive into the wilderness to get to Carbon Lake and Battleship Mountain.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam Security Gate

4. Just past the gate turn to the right at the blue sign seen ahead.

5. The view after the turn.

6. A few hundred meters later, you are at the visitor centre. Coordinates: N 56'00'175 W 122'11'299.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam Visitor Centre

7. Nice view.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam British Columbia Canada

8. After you enter the visitor centre, the check-in desk and the gift shop and a cafe are on the left, and the exhibits are on the right. No bags or video recording allowed. You would also need to wear a badge to identify you as someone who paid the admission fee, which is as follows: $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and youths (6-17 years), $15 for a family of four. Children under 5 are free. Unclear what happens to children between 5 and 6 years of age. The tour of the dam is included in the price of admission. The visitor centre is open May through September 10 AM to 5 PM daily, with the first tour of the dam starting at 10:30 AM, and the last tour starting at 3:30 PM. The tour takes about an hour, and includes watching a 10-minute video in the basement of the visitor centre before hopping on a bus, which takes you to the dam.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam Visitor Centre

9. The visitor centre has been recently renovated, and looks very modern, if small, with several fine exhibits. The pre-tour 10-minute movie mostly showed the building of the dam, its operation, and the advantages of having the dam generate so much electricity. Then, there was a short insert in the middle of the movie, which felt like it was put there after the movie was completed, and it speaks of the injustices suffered by the aboriginal people who inhabited the lands which were flooded when the dam was constructed. It's a bit of a weird feeling when you watch a feel-good documentary about the dam, then a sudden turn to "check out how badly this dam affected the natives", and then it's back to the feel-good documentary about the dam. There is also a small part of the visitor centre dedicated to memories of the aboriginals who suffered from the dam construction, titled "they call it progress, we call it destruction." Anyway, the view from the visitor centre is awesome. The Williston Lake reservoir is on the right, the dam itself and the road on top of it are in the middle, and the power generating facility part of the dam is on the left.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam seen from the visitor centre

10. One of the exhibits.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam Visitor Centre

11. Now it's time to board the tour bus. Always present are the driver, two tour guides and a security guard. So, if you are the only person who wants to have a tour, which might happen considering the remote location of this place, it's going to be four employees and one tourist on that bus.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam Tour Bus

12. After a ten minute drive, the bus entered a tunnel (which we should have taken a picture of), and drove for several hundred meters, prior to turning around. Everyone but the driver then exited, and visitors donned hard hats provided by BC Hydro. There were sanitary head covers available for the health-conscious among us. And then one guide lead, and the other followed the group. Ear plugs were also available, as it gets noisy during the tour. First, there was this place, and the guide used a microphone to overpower the noise while explaining what this was, but we were too busy taking photos. That said, if we remember correctly, the actual power generating machines are under the floor in this area.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam British Columbia Canada

13. Then, we were led down this corridor, tastefully decorated in BC Hydro's corporate colours.

14-16. There is an information stand on the wall of the corridor, which explains exactly how this whole thing works, and here it is in three consecutive photos. The "you are here" note with an arrow at the bottom of the first photo shows our exact location at this point.

17. After the corridor, there was this cool place which could have been straight out of a survival movie - semi-dark, lonely, with rushing water on the side.

18. The water was rushing indeed.

19. And then we returned to the bus, which took us to the visitor centre. After that, we went back to the road seen in photo #4, and turned right to get to the top of the dam.

20. Now we are driving on top of the dam. It was an enjoyable ride, restricted to 30 km/h. There are No Parking signs there, but the tour guide said that we should not even stop. And there is a No Stopping sign at the beginning of the road across the dam too.


Driving on top of W.A.C. Bennett Dam

21. Powerhouse on the left as we are driving on top of the dam.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam Powerhouse

22. Good views all around.


Road on top of W.A.C. Bennett Dam

23. Closer to the end of the dam.

24. Then, the road veers to the right, and you get to see this crane.

25. Going up the road, soon there is a turnoff towards the boat launch, as well as Carbon Lake and Battleship Mountain.

26. The main road goes left, and so did we. There is a good viewpoint on the side of the road, where you can see the dam from the other end. The visitor centre can be seen above the powerhouse in the upper right part of the photo.


W.A.C. Bennett Dam by Hudson's Hope BC Canada

After that, the road goes up for a short while, ending up at a large turnaround area, which also has a view of the dam, though not as good as the one on the photo above. The W.A.C. Bennett Dam is certainly an interesting and picturesque place to visit, if you are ever in the area.


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