A large rectangular concrete building sits on the water at the base of a forested mountain.

Buntzen Power Station

I recently went for a walk in təmtəmíxʷtən (Belcarra), and when I got to… wait, what’s that weird derelict building in the distance?

Is it an abandoned hotel? No, there’s no way to get there by land. An old naval fortress? No, the location doesn’t make any strategic sense. A hydroelectric dam? Where’s the water behind it?

As it turns out, it is a power plant! Buntzen generating station #2, completed in 1914, was built to supplement the output of BC’s first-ever hydroelectric plant up-inlet. Both stations were powered by water delivered by penstocks from Buntzen Lake, which in turn was supplied with water from Coquitlam Lake via a 4km-long tunnel.

Buntzen station #1 is still functional and supplies 60 megawatts of power to the Metro Vancouver area. Buntzen #2 was shut down at the turn of the millennium and serves as a historic curiosity for kayakers in səl̓ilw̓ət (Indian Arm).

A black-and-white photo of a large but narrow concrete building at the bottom of a steep hill on the water.
Buntzen station #2 under construction in 1913. (James Matthews/Vancouver Archives)