Explore the Stave Falls Powerhouse

Last weekend, we drove out past Maple Ridge to explore the Stave Falls Powerhouse. When we arrived, Sunshine was a bit disappointed that a place named “falls” didn’t actually have a waterfall. We tried to explain that the dam sits on top of the falls, or where the falls were, but she wasn’t impressed.

Visiting the Stave Falls Powerhouse

As soon as we parked, there were things to look at. All along the walk from the parking lot to the powerhouse were plenty of things related to electricity, from the great structure above to a display of house meters and electrical boxes. My husband and I enjoyed reading the accompanying signs and trying to answer the girls’ questions about what everything was.

Girls looking at turbine at the Stave Falls Powerhouse

Inside the powerhouse, we were welcomed warmly by the staff and ushered into a brief movie about how rain helps make electricity. It was narrated by teens and helped to show some of the behind-the-scenes things that happen at the powerhouse, like how the turbines run. Then we were off to the next room to learn about different ways that electricity is generated.

Here we found all sorts of things to play with, from a little table with a couple of puzzles which Jade had fun with, to more sophisticated displays on the nature of electricity. There was a diorama showing a few of the animals that live in the area around the Powerhouse. Another display showed how wind power is generated. The girls had fun with this display on how electrical current travels (though I’m not sure they understood what it was trying to teach them):

Electrical current display at the Stave Falls Powerhouse

In the next room, we learned more about the history of electricity, from important figures like Nicolai Tesla and Benjamin Franklin to what they discovered. The girls loved the hands-on displays here too. I tried to read the signs while helping them touch and crank and experiment.

Lily exploring electricity

We were also on time to catch a Tesla display from the museum hostess. We all had to wear ear muffs because the noise was quite loud. Then she turned off the lights and we got to watch the electricity dancing inside the cage.

From there, we headed out to the main hall of the powerhouse. Armed with our new knowledge about electricity, we were ready to see how it was generated here at Stave Falls. The size of everything here was incredible. The girls were a bit less interested in this part and went running ahead, while I tried to read about the history of the men and the families who worked here.

The Stave Falls Powerhouse

One interesting bit of trivia I found on the walls was the reason for the falls’ name. Apparently this area was a good source of white pine, which were used for making barrel staves. The barrels were required at Fort Langley to export local products. Seems like a long way to travel to get wood for making barrels, but maybe they were able to follow the rivers.

We stepped outside to see the dam, then went down to the ground floor where the girls had fun following painted footprints among the generators. Then we were out into another hallway with more history about the people who worked here and the early history of electricity. By then, the girls were being silly and not interested in reading more signs or books, so we headed for the gift shop.

Both my husband and I were quite impressed by how much there was to learn at the Powerhouse. It would be a great field trip for a science unit on electricity (grades 4-7 in BC). I also enjoyed learning more about the history of the area and how it connects to other places we’ve visited around the lower mainland. We spent about two hours there wandering around and didn’t read or try everything.

Baby-friendly: Jade rode in the Ergo for quite a bit of our visit (saying “I a little baby!”). There were stairs down into the generating room but there was also an elevator so it could be stroller or wheelchair accessible if necessary.

Kid-friendly: Yes! We had to lift the girls up to view or do some of the displays, but there was a wide selection of hands-on material to teach kids about electricity. The concept is a bit above our girls’ heads but they still had fun trying out the various displays.

Fees: A family day pass is $15. Kids under 5 are free.

For more about the Stave Falls Powerhouse, including visiting hours (closed during the winter), check out the website.

I received two complimentary adult admissions to the Powerhouse from Tourism Vancouver; all opinions expressed are my own.

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