A Visit to the Bridge River

Posted by Daniel on Jan 15, 2011

News of the recent agreement between the province and St'at'imc people in relation to the hydroelectric development at Seton Lake brings into focus an historically fascinating but often ignored part of the province.

I first paid a visit to the Bridge River country, of which Seton Lake forms an extension, in the mid-1990s. My father had been a camp doctor at the Bralorne gold mine in the late 1930s and I was interested in seeing where he had worked. As far as I could make out, the only place to stay in the area was the Tyax Wilderness Resort, which turned out to be an elegant lodge on Tyaughton Lake not far from Bralorne. The woman who took my phone reservation assured me that I would have no trouble driving a "family car" from Vancouver up past Pemberton over the Hurley Pass, but her idea of a family car must have been a heavy-duty truck because my compact stationwagon barely made it over the rutted, boggy trail that was passing for a road in those days.

The way out was much easier, eastward down the smooth dirt road that follows the shore of Carpenter Lake. The lake is a reservoir, created 1955-60 to store water for what was then the largest hydroelectric development in the province. Work began on this development in 1927, was stalled by the Depression and WWII, then restarted in 1946 to satisfy the postwar demand for electricity.

At the eastern end of the lake is the Terzaghi Dam, named for the project designer. Water from the lake is diverted across the mountains to the powerhouses at Shalalth on Seton Lake. According to BC Hydro the entire Bridge River complex, consisting of three dams and four generating stations, produces up to 8 percent of the province's electricity. The agreement with the St'at'imc will compensate them for impacts on their communities during the construction period.

Of course, long before hydro power there was gold. It was first discovered in the 1850s, but during the 1930s the Bralorne and Pioneer mines, which brought my father to the area, were among the largest producers in the world.

A good description of the Bridge River area is here.