Adventure awaits

Just a short trip from Winnipeg lies a place where the remnants of the old Pinawa dam meet the timelessness of nature, gradually submitting to the surrounding landscape. The signs of human presence become less noticeable each passing year, and the decaying industrial relic is all that’s left of a once bustling community.

 

It is no exaggeration to say that Winnipeg owes its progress to the old dam that had brought electricity to its homes for the first time, and ensured the city’s transformation from a modest prairie town to an industrial hub.

 

 

It all started when the Winnipeg Electric Street Railway Company embarked on a project deemed impossible by many, and cut its way through the pre-Cambrian bedrock to build the first year-round hydro-electric generating station on the Winnipeg River. The dam was constructed in just three short years, and at a cost of $3 million – $1 million of which went into the concrete used for the structure – it was a marvel of engineering. It was built so well that at the peak of its capacity, the plant produced double the expected power. Inaugurated in 1906, the Pinawa power station generated electricity for the next 45 years, and a small community flourished around it. The plant eventually closed in 1951 to give way to a new, more efficient station downstream. Completely abandoned, the dam was briefly used as the Canadian military’s munitions testing ground, and eerie signs of destruction can be seen in the landscape today.

 

The Pinawa dam’s significance was compared to that of the locomotive’s invention. The first project of its kind, it paved the way for building hydroelectric plants in cold climates worldwide. Today, at the heart of the Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park, visitors encounter an unlikely sight of the 13-metre-high ruins rising silently above the three-billion-year-old rock of the Canadian Shield. Both are old and weary, but on vastly different scales.

Do make time to explore this testament to human ingenuity; and, as a wise adage goes: “Keep the memories and leave nothing behind, but your footprints”.

By: Anna Aráoz