This photo taken by the Hughes Brothers circa 1925 is titled, “Generator in course of erection W.K.P. & L. Co., Bonnington, B.C.” This generator was key to the upgraded #1 plant in Lower Bonnington owed then by the West Kootenay Power and Light Company (W.K.P. & L. Co.) Photo: Trail Historical Society

This photo taken by the Hughes Brothers circa 1925 is titled, “Generator in course of erection W.K.P. & L. Co., Bonnington, B.C.” This generator was key to the upgraded #1 plant in Lower Bonnington owed then by the West Kootenay Power and Light Company (W.K.P. & L. Co.) Photo: Trail Historical Society

Origins of West Kootenay hydropower

View the Trail Historical Society’s first curated online photo exhibit at

This black and white image dating back 96 years is from the Trail Historical Society’s first curated online photography exhibit available for viewing at

The gallery link is to the left of the page under Hughes and Carpenter Exhibit. Once the viewer clicks that link they’ll be taken to a page highlighting the industrial and commercial development of Trail in three chapters: Chapter 1 is the biographies of photographers WJ Carpenter and the Hughes Brothers, pioneers who captured much of the early industrial and commercial development; Chapter 2, Industrial Beginnings (1898-1940); and Chapter 3, Commercial Beginnings, (1898-1940).

This particular photo shows a generator West Kootenay Power and Light Company installed into the Lower Bonnington Dam, circa 1925. The energy company, formed in 1897, supplied power to the early Rossland Trail smelter operations from relatively small hydro-electric power plants on the Kootenay River, some 35 miles from Trail.

In 1916, the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited (now Teck) acquired controlling interest in the power company and then proceeded to expand its operations.

A long-range venture was undertaken which resulted in full development of the Kootenay River power potential between Kootenay Lake and the Columbia River.

This power expansion provided for growth of metallurgical operations, and later, for requirements of the chemical fertilizer industry.

The original Lower Bonnington Dam, built in 1897, was comprised of a rock-filled timber crib dam, which straddled the river upstream of the falls at its present site. The dam was demolished and replaced with a larger structure in 1924, including three units, greatly increasing generating capacity.

Owned and operated by FortisBC since 2003, today’s Lower Bonnington Dam is comprised of a powerhouse behind an intake dam on the right bank of the Kootenay River and a concrete gravity structure approximately 18 meters high.

Read more: Waneta Dam sale a done deal

Read more: Explore these local dams

– With Trail Historical Society files

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