Aug 202012
Power lines Kootenay Lake

While travelling on the Kootenay Bay to Balfour ferry I’ve often wondered about those power lines to the north that dangle just above the lake (actually they are over 35m above the lake – it just looks like they are almost touching the water). I am sure others have thought about them too.

With a little extra time on our hands, we decided to pay them a visit.

The eastern anchors are easily viewable on the road to Riondel. There is a pull off when you can stop and just west, surrounded a by a fence, the structures can be easily seen and photographed. Note how substantial the anchors are and I can only imagine how much tension they are under.

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To see the structures first hand is an amazing thing and I can’t imagine how they strung the cables over three kilometres to the other side. This crossing is the longest of it’s type in North America and was originally built to bring in cheap electricity to mines in the region. Like the Bluebell Mine in Riondel, a large lead, zinc and silver producer that operated into the 1970s.

The anchors seen here date from the early 1960s, but the crossing itself was in place, albeit with a bit shorter span, since the 1950s. In 1962 the towers were dynamited and destroyed by a Doukobour religious sect (the Sons of Freedom) and rebuilt to the current form you see now. This religious organization was known for their sometimes violent ways along with their nude protests and in the era from the 1920s into he 1960s they committed many acts of arson in the region along with bombings and other acts of aggression.

Numerous marker balls and pylons are placed along the span, so the lines can be seen by low flying aircraft. Who would ever expect to find power cables here?!

The following excerpt about the building of the power lines is from the book “Dorothy’s Stormy Lake Part V” by Brenda Dau and is used with permission. More information on this entire book series can be found at

Dorothy’s Stormy Lake, Part V describes watching the power cables being taken from the beach on the east side of the lake to the the bottom off the cliff on the west side. Dorothy and Bobby Brown lived at Walkers Landing about a half mile from the east side tower.

“Everything was scheduled for Thursday, March 6 as THE big day. All the bigwigs were there, newspapermen and movies. Nothing happened, however. They had a rockslide on the west side. This delayed operations for that day. Although nothing was achieved that day as far as the power line was concerned, it was quite exciting… They had hired a number of launches and the Glaco Tug which was full of bright orange-colored barrels… As they didn’t get going on the Friday, then they postponed everything until Sunday. This enabled the Moyie to go up the lake on her regular schedule… Sunday we watched from time to time until finally we saw that the Glaco was dropping over the orange barrels attached to the towline…. As we looked we noticed that the barrels were disappearing. At first we thought that they were just bobbing up and down, then we realized that they didn’t appear again. It was really very funny to see them just sink. The men were all watching too, and one of them called down, “Where are those barrels going to?” By now everyone knew that they were actually sinking. The tug rushed about picking up the odd one… It was obvious that the barrel proposition was miscalculated.

On Monday the Dominion Bridge Co. had to figure out what to do with the towline. They raised it onto the pontoons…Tuesday, March 11…The crew arrived early and Brenda and I were down early, too. The towline was already over, so it was the attaching of the cable and it being launched on its way across the lake that we wanted to see. Well, everyone was there, cameramen, movies, newspapermen and heads of the company (Dominion Bridge), besides the bigwigs of the Consolidated. It was really a great event. We thought they would never get started…

At last the moment arrived. The cable started to move. Launches were rushing about; the Moyie was nosed into the beach to stand by for any emergency. The cable tipped over the end of the cribbing, people and boats rushing everywhere. At last the cable was in the water and was pulled up onto the wooden float which they had built. Slowly but surely the cable was on its way over. As each pontoon, supporting the towline, came close to the shore on the east side, they were released and brought back by a launch to put under the cable as more and more of it went on its way west. They had to shuffle the pontoons this way, as they were not really for the towline and only had to be used as the orange barrels had sunk…

Finally we came home and watched from here. It took them all day to get it across. Then they left it lying on the pontoons until the next day. That night the pontoons all had a lantern and it looked nice to see the six lights across the lake.

It was not until the afternoon that the cable started to be pulled up from the west side. Bobby took Brenda and me out in the launch to the west side just to see what we could see, but it was not until after we had gotten home that the pulling up started. They did not finish hauling it into place that day. They finished Thursday, but again it was a bad day.”

If you liked this post, why not check these ones out…
The mysterious Magnesium Company of Canada.
Arrow Lakes Marine Railway – interesting engineering.

If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!

Date: August 2012
Location: Near Kootenay Bay BC.

Kootenay Lake powerlines

The eastern anchors.

Power lines Kootenay Lake

The load on these must be incredible.

Power lines over Kootenay Lake

The west anchors seen roughly 2km away.

Powerlines Kootenay Lake

Another view showing the lines dangling across the lake.

Cable car

They use this cable car to venture out to the lines. What a ride!

Archors Kootenay Lake powerlines

The better view of the west anchors as seen from the ferry.


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8 Comments on "Kootenay Lake power lines – amazing engineering."

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These are quite fascinating power lines and I thought you might be interested to know original settlers of this area, Dorothy and Bobby Brown, lived very close to these lines when they were built. Her daughters have published five books from Dorothy’s letters and the latest book, “Dorothy’s Stormy Lake – Part V” gives some very interesting details on the original building of these power lines. The books are fascinating reads! See post above for link.

J Tee
J Tee

Hi guys,

I really enjoyed your webpage about this. I was thru there a couple of weeks ago and was pretty amazed – even more amazed to see they go back to 1958.

I looked out and thought how the hell do those “cones” ever get replaced – and you had the answer – thanks. Cable car – the idea gave me major scrotum contraction.



Why was it possible to rebuild this powerline crossing in 1962 without the use of a taller tower? Was the first powerline crossing situated at an other place?


Richie Deane was theChief Electrical Engineer of Cominco (retired 1977). He and R.C. Harris of Dominion Bridge supervised the construction of this incredible cable span.
There is a book called The Span, The Bizarre Story of the Kootenay Lake Crossing. It is written by J.D. McDonald Rossland Historical Museum and Archives Association 2001.
ISBN 0-9681329-1-X
Ian Lendrum Calgary