Enroute toward the power generating station there is a Churchill Falls sign as seen in the picture.
These tells you how many megawatts of power is being generated at the time. It is constantly fluctuating.
I think it is a neat little sign that they have installed there.
So now that I have given you a virtual tour of one of the world's largest hydro electric projects on the Churchill River and some sights from around the town what is next for the pressured Grand River?
Governments of the day are now promoting more development of the river while environmental groups in the area fight against it.
Down river much closer to the mouth of the river, development is being proposed at a site called Gull Island and Muskrat Falls. Both areas can be seen by traveling past Churchill Falls enroute to Happy Valley - Goose Bay.
Here in this picture is one I took of the Muskrat Falls. It's not as dramatic in height but the pressure and grade of the river still has the force to create an economically viable project.
In the years to come I'll tell you a story of what happens. Will it be of another contract gone bad for a financially inept province? An environmental disaster? Or an environmentally friendly project that delivers benefits to the people of Labrador? We will have to wait and see! :-)
Churchill Falls also has a very large runway that was needed during the time of construction. It was a very busy airport, today its a small town and little air traffic into the community.
There are limited scheduled passenger flights.
Interesting to note however the Company does own, maintain and operate its on King Air fixed wing aircraft and three helicopters used to monitor the transmission lines.
These guys are a good resource to get tips on where the caribou are located because they see them all the time.
The King Air is used just for executives and the residents get use to it for medical referrals when its coming or going.
This is a very important point if you are planning to go to Churchill Falls. In the winter season it is the best place in Labrador to spot caribou right from your vehicle as seen in the picture.
If you have a good camera you can get some great shots of the caribou. At certain times you will literally see thousands of them as they are migrating.
They are beautiful animals don't you think? I think there is something better about the wild than the zoo!
I think it's only far if I am going to recommend a 239 km road trip I better tell you where to get some gas so you can go to Strickland's they call it locally.
It's a gas station, garage and small convenience store. Be warned there are no places in between Wabush and Churchill Falls or Happy Valley - Goose Bay.
So you now know where to stay in Churchill Falls and where to eat and gas up :-)
In all my visits to Churchill Falls I have yet to see a black bear but it wouldn't be hard if I wanted too. They hang out at the dump all the time for regular feedings.
On occassion though these bears do come into the town so you want to be careful. Here in this picture this trap was located right behind the gas station.
There will be a buzz around town if their near and this particular visit Kiana and I missed out on walking to Reflector Hill because we were afraid of an encounter!
In the summer time you can also hang out at Blueberry Lake its right in the town just across from the main town center and behind the community multi-denominational church.
I have spotted ducks and geese in this pond on many occassions. There is a small beach you can hang out at. The water is a little cold and maybe dirty for swimming but you can check it out for sure :-)
To enter Churchill Falls from Wabush you have to take the first exit off the Trans Labrador Highway.
As soon as you turn you will see a hill with a satelite reflector on the top. That is Churchill Falls Reflector Hill. It makes for a nice short little walk in town and gives you the view you see in this picture.
Be a little bit cautious that harmless black bears may be in the area from time to time.
You can see in this picture as well the layout of the town. The town itself was also well engineered and all the houses are identical with a couple of variations. Remember this is a company town.
Some other intesting things of note, that residents and employees pay very minimal prices to live in the Company house, like $150 CDN per month and your utlities are included in that so its a great place to bank some money!
The Company even comes in and provided appliances, paints the places and even gives fertilizer for your lawn!! :-)
Churchill Falls is a company town and there is one main building in the town that holds the local school, a pool, gym, theatre, excercise room, department store, grocery store, post office, library, restaurant and hotel.
It's all in the building you see in this picture. This is also where you get picked up for the company tour of the site.
It's right in the center of town so seeing and finding it is not an issue.
I have eaten the food there and its very good and the hotel is a comfortable hotel to hang your hat on this journey!
This is a picture of what local people call the wash out! To get here you have to take the road directly across from the switch yard that heads down to the river bed where the water exits the hydro electric project.
Don't go right to the river bed about half way down on the left hand side you will see another road branching off and you take that one. I know that sounds rough but this is a small town and you will find it.
So here is a warning. It is fun tumbling down the washout but hard as hell walking back up in the sand. You also need to be careful as parts of this bank do break away from time to time so be cautious.
Just beyond what you can see in this picture is then the banks of the Churchill River. The beach down there is a great place to hide away. No one will see you down there and just relax. Another warning the water is not the warmest and I wouldn't advise swimming there because the river current is just so strong, so don't.
Local people do hang out there from time to time. I remember us having a great game of beach football and getting kicks out of throwing the girls in, LOL.
When in town if you drive by the main town center and onto a gravel road, about 1 km away you will find the McParlan House. This is a massive house that is basically just for use by the big shots within the company.
It is seemingly off limits to any community functions and that sort of stuff but many people go down there for the view. There is nothing stopping you from enjoying the scenery down there.
You can see in this picture you get a great shot of the river and the power lines crossing the river.
I thought it was better to show you that then the house itself.
As you can see better in this picture to harness so much energy and then get those lines back across the river and then enroute to power up the eastern seaboard of the United States was no easy task.
Look at the drag on those lines! I can only imagine the tension on the lines. On the tour they explain a lot more about how this was done originally.
As you can see from this picture when you look past the engineering project there is one beautiful and scenic river!
I havn't boated on this river yet but will try my best to do so soon. I know local people are on it all the time and aboriginal elders from the Happy Valley - Goose Bay area make annual treks down the river in canoe as they often did as trappers years ago.
To explore the river either way you will be in for a treat and that activity alone is worth doing your homework for and just doing it!
So know that the water has done its work, you see it finished underground at the surge chamber but then it flows back out into the river as seen in this picture.
When you are in the town directly across from the switch yard you will see a gravel road that heads toward the river and then down. This will bring you right to the rivers edge. This is where I took the picture.
It is also a popular area for residents to launch their boats enroute many local people also plant their gardens in this area as the land is nice and fertile.
So this concludes my virtual tour of the Churchill Falls engineering project itself. I will show you around the town a little now and some more of the great scenery in the area!
So if you are following me we have a damed river, and harnessed power that then flows down underground and turns those turbines in the powerplant then after the power is generated down underground it is sent above and distributed through this switch yard and off to market through these lines to Quebec and then eastern United States.
You can see in the picture how the power lines then had to cross the Churchill River again. This too was an engineering challenge as these massive lines cross the river.