Snare Hydro System

Where: Yellowknife, NT.

Engineer: Montreal Engineering Company Ltd.

Date of construction: 1948

Aerial view of Snare River hydro dam and powerhouse. (Source: CSCE)


Site Location: Lat.: 63° – 30’ – 41” N; Long.: 116° – 0’ – 29” W. (GPS: 63.5113384, -116.0081107). Accessible by pontoon-equipped aircraft only in the summer.

Plaque Location: The plaque is located on the west wall at the south west corner of the powerhouse.

Plaque on west wall of south west corner of powerhouse. (Source: S. Bassi-Kellert)


Description: The eight Megawatt Snare River Hydro Power Plant was commissioned in 1948 to provide electricity for the Giant and Consolidated gold mines, and for the businesses and residents, in Yellowknife. Additional downstream sites were developed at Snare Falls in 1961, at Snare Forks in 1975, and at Snare Cascades in 1996 to meet the increased demand from the two gold mines and the communities of Rae-Edzo, N’Dilo, Dettah and Yellowknife.

The earth fill dam has a total crest width of 233 m (763 ft.), spanning across a rock island at a narrow section of the river valley and contains 126,000 m3 (165000 cu. Yds.) of material. The impervious fine glacial silt core material was obtained in nearby swamps and the sand for the pervious zones was found in great abundance within 0.4 km (0.25 mi.) of the site. The cement, structural steel and other material was brought to the site by aircraft, at great expense, and by trains of bulldozers hauling large sleds from various ports in the winter.

Historic Significance: The Snare Hydro project extended the knowledge of cold-region engineering and construction gained on the Alaska Highway and Canol Pipeline projects to water resource engineering applications. Concrete placed between mid September and late May required frost protection, heating the water, aggregate and forms, and although considerable quantities were placed during the cold months only, the concrete froze on only one occasion. The core material in its natural state was permanently frozen, entrained considerable excess moisture before it was placed, and took a long time to dewater, putting the project behind schedule.

The provision of reliable electricity from the Snare Hydro development allowed Yellowknife to evolve from a pioneer, and somewhat ramshackle, settlement to a modern, well-constructed, town.

Plaque detail. (Source: CSCE)


Plaque Wording: CSCE. National Historic Civil Engineering Site. SNARE HYDRO SYSTEM. Constructed 1948. A tribute to the engineers and constructors wh created the Snare Hydro Electric System, one of the most northerly facilities of its kind in Canada. The Snare Hydro System was constructed in 1948 to serve the growing NWT mining industry and the community of Yellowknife. Expansions to the system have provided an essential power to Yellowknife and other northern communities, and fostered new development. Engineer: Montreal Engineering Company Ltd. Contractor: Northern Construction Company. Owner: Northwest Territories Power Corporation. Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. 2007.

SCGC. Lieu Historique National du Génie Civil. LE SYSTÈME HYDRO-ÉLÉCTRIQUE SNARE. Construit en 1948. En hommage aux ingénieurs civils et aux entrepreneurs qui ont créé le système hydro-éléctrique Snare, l’un des aménagements du genre situés le plus au nord, du Canada. Le système hydro-élétrique Snare a été d’abord construit en 1948 pour deserver une industrie minière en plein croissance ainsi que la ville de Yellowknife. Le système a ensuite été enrichi pour alimenter Yellowknife, d’autres villes du nord, et pour stimuler le développement. Ingénieur: Montreal Engineering Company Ltd. Entrepreneur: Northern Construction Company. Propriétaire: Northwest Territories Power Corporation. Société canadienne de genie civil. 2007.

Plaque Unveiling Ceremony: The plaque was unveiled by CSCE President Ghani Razaqpur at Sombe K’e Civic Plaza on June 8, 2007.

Plaque unveiling: from left: Rick Blennerhassett, Northwest Territories Power Corporation, Ken Johnson, CSCE member who co-ordinated the nomination; Ghani Razaqpur, CSCE President. (Source: CSCE)


Link to Online Documentation:

Ken Johnson and Greg Haist, “Snare River Hydro – A History Dedication”.