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The Chaudière Dam

Chaudière Dam

The bed of the Ottawa River drops abruptly several times in a set of cascades with islands in between. The largest of these waterfalls, in the shape of a horseshoe, is about 10 metres high. People referred to this waterfall as the "Grande Chaudière" (big cauldron), distinguishing it from the "Petite Chaudière" (little cauldron), the falls that are now under the Domtar buildings on the Quebec side of the river. This smaller waterfall has been known as "the Devil's Hole" since the early twentieth century. There are other small falls between the buildings on the Ontario side of the river.

Although the current of the Ottawa River was impressive in spring, in summer and fall the water often slowed to the point of preventing the regular functioning of the engines and turbines. Sometimes, it was even possible to cross part of the river on the rocks above the Grande Chaudière. For this reason, in the 1810s, Philemon Wright built the first dike to harness the hydraulic force of the Devil's Hole falls, which he named "Petite Chaudière".

Subsequently, a number of dikes were built by the owners of various industries on the shores and islands near the falls, to force the water towards their equipment and turbines. These dams or dikes were the subject of many disputes among their users. With the arrival of electricity, the competition became even fiercer. To settle their differences, the owners and renters of the waterpower of the falls united in 1905 to build a single dam, serving them all, above the Grande Chaudière.

The dam was built in 1908 and put into operation in 1910 with the aim of controlling and standardizing the water level and distributing the waterpower. This structure, which mirrors the eccentric geomorphic shape of the falls, was a rare example of a dam with stoplogs. It was the first hydroelectric dam on the Ottawa River and one of the first in Quebec.