UFO? Nope! It’s the Great Falls Generating Station

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This science fiction-like throwback is from the Great Falls Generating Station in 1922.

Lac du Bonnet and region have quite a story to tell about how electricity first came here and what it’s done for us since. That story is told at the Manitoba Electrical Museum in Winnipeg.

Since its opening in 2001, the museum — located at 680 Harrow Street — has pulled in over 100,000 visitors who’ve come to discover the story of how our province has created a resource that is the envy of much of the world.

“We have these great rivers and resources that a lot of places don’t have. You turn on a switch and there it is — but there’s a big backstory that people often aren’t aware of,” says Janet Rak, Manitoba Hydro’s public safety and education coordinator.

The museum building itself was built in 1931 and is still a functioning substation today — part of the electrical grid system that brings electricity to south Winnipeg. Visitors can discover the entire story behind electrical development in Manitoba, and a huge part of that story is the Lac du Bonnet region’s role in it.

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Photo courtesy City of Winnipeg

Outside the museum you’ll be greeted by a large turbine that originally came from the Great Falls generating station. According to the Manitoba Historical Society, the 15-foot, 10-inch diameter, 28,000-horsepower, fixed blade hydraulic turbine in front of the museum building generated 7.5 billion kilowatt hours of electrical energy at Great Falls generating station from August 1928 to May 1987.

Enjoy the following fun facts (after the ad below) about Manitoba Hydro’s history in Manitoba and the Lac du Bonnet region, and don’t forget to pay a visit to the museum. Location and hours are available at hydro.mb.ca/museum.

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No Winnipeg Without Pinawa?  Within a decade of the Pinawa hydroelectric generating station being finished in 1906, the ‘Peg quadrupled its population. Pinawa helped fuel this massive growth and bring an economic boom to the city.

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This photo of the construction of the Slave Falls Generating Station was taken by William Specht in the 1930s.

The Big 6. Six hydroelectric generating stations now exist on the Winnipeg River: Seven Sisters, Pointe du Bois, Great Falls, Pine Falls, Slave Falls, and McArthur Falls.

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The Largest Falls. The biggest waterfall on the Winnipeg River was the Grand du Bonnet waterfall. It dropped 11 metres over four cliffs. When the Great Falls generating station was built it combined two smaller waterfalls with Grand du Bonnet — Whitemud and Little du Bonnet.

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The Mightiest. Seven Sisters is the largest electricity producer on the river. The engineers who built it call it the mightiest. McArthur Falls is the smallest but newest generating station on the river. It’s named after pioneer businessman John Duncan McArthur (pictured), who built both a sawmill and a brickworks in the region, not to mention laid railroads throughout Western Canada. He was also the subject of a theatre production held in 2017 to commemorate the RM of Lac du Bonnet’s centennial.

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Hydro employees and their families at the Great Falls town site in 1923.

Better late than never. Despite the Winnipeg River being a huge electricity generator, many homes in the region didn’t have electricity until the mid-20th century. Electricity didn’t come to Manitoba farms until the 1950s, something made possible by countless hard-working Hydro employees.

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