Discover the Tallest Dam in British Columbia

Written by Katie Melynn Wood
Published: February 11, 2024
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The colossal W.A.C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River in British Columbia is the tallest dam in the province. It is 610 feet high, making it the third-largest dam in the entire country. It created the Williston Reservoir, which is roughly 680 square miles. This reservoir is the largest freshwater lake in British Columbia. The W.A.C. Bennett Dam is a hydroelectric resource that generates power for the province. At full capacity, it supplies around one-third of the power used in all of British Columbia. A major construction project when it was built in the 1960s, the W.A.C. Bennett Dam helped British Columbia’s economy but also had some unintended negative impacts on the residents and wildlife that lived in the area.

History of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam

The W.A.C. Bennett Dam is a hydroelectric dam that generates power for British Columbia’s residents.

©Andres M. Panti/ CC BY-SA 3.0

When construction began in 1963, this was one of the largest projects started in British Columbia. The entire reservoir area needed to be cleared and the earth-fill dam needed to be constructed. Construction took 5 years and cost around $750 million. Even with the high cost, it was a major project for British Columbia that created jobs. The electricity generated by the dam and the power station were important to the economy of the province.

Some environmental activists disagreed with the creation of the dam and reservoir. When clearing space for massing Williston Reservoir, more than 300,000 acres of forests were cleared or flooded. This had a big impact on the ecosystem and environment. Residents of the area were also displaced and required to move, including some Indigenous families with ties to the region.

The dam, reservoir, and support facilities are still maintained by BC Hydro. You can visit the dam and see it in person at the overlook.

Animals in the Williston Reservoir

Causeway road over Williston Lake in beautiful British Columbia

The Williston Reservoir, also known as Williston Lake, is one of the largest bodies of water in Canada.


British Columbia is home to amazing animal species. The Williston Reservoir and the Peace River have plenty of fish, including lake trout, bull trout, rocky mountain whitefish, and lake whitefish all swim in its waters. However, there are high mercury levels in the lake so it’s not always safe to eat fish that you catch in Williston Reservoir. Some species have more mercury than others, however, so it’s best to check local recommendations and regulations for updated information. There are boat launches at the reservoir and fishing is allowed. In the cold winter months, the lake freezes over and snowmobiling is a popular activity.

When the dam changed the environment, some species were negatively impacted. Caribou, once common in this area as they migrated, also faced major changes. There were once numerous herds that went through the region during their migration route. Today, many of the herds have dwindling numbers. Large animals like moose and bears are also common in the interior of British Columbia, although the changing landscape impacted their habits as well.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Thenewtronbomb/ CC BY-SA 3.0 / Original

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

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