A long weekend and summer-like weather were a welcome combination for literally hundreds who flocked to Hayward Lake for some sun and fun.
The lake was peppered with kayakers, canoers, and paddleboarders, while children played games and threw balls in the grassy meadow, dozens hit the hiking trail that links two ends of the lake by land, and a handful could be seen building sand castles on the beach. Nearby several lounged in the sun reading a book, while others toiled over their barbecue grill making food for their parties.
When warm weather arrives, Hayward Lake recreation area is just one of the several popular destinations locally. It’s growing in popularity, in part, because nearby Alouette and Whonnock Lakes are so busy that they reach capacity and park rangers have to close the gates.
Many who visit the Hayward site, however, have little knowledge of how it came to be more than a century ago.
It was in the late 1890s when the hydro-electric potential in the area was first realized – specifically a Vancouver-based company was eyeing Stave Lake, a seven-mile-long waterway that flowed to the Stave Falls – where the water plunged 84 feet to the lower Stave River.
It’s these falls that were seen as the perfect site for a power dam, according to a local book called “Rowing Your Boat Ashore.”
While the efforts to build a dam by the first company failed, Western Power Company of Canada came in around 1909 and began constructing a dam that could provide power to Vancouver, New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Mission, and even Bellingham, Wash.
The first phase of dam construction was completed in 1912, and power started flowing. In less than a dozen years, capacity and demand had more than tripled and the need to expand was evident.
Eventually, that expansion included the creation of the of Ruskin Dam in 1929, and subsequently the Hayward Lake reservoir that would be bound on the south by the Ruskin Dam and the Stave Falls Dam in the north.
During construction of Hayward and the new dam, various buildings started popping up around the powerhouse, including homes for the workers and their families in an area soon known as Stave Falls community, according to Mission Museum archives.
The structures included a freight shed, railway station, store, doctors offices, and a machine shop.
An estimated 400 to 500 men were employed in the construction of the railway and worked at the falls, and the community – dubbed “the hole” because of its location – bore the mark of a company town.
Workers were housed by the company, and provided recreational facilities such as badminton and tennis courts, a dance hall, and lawn bowling greens.
The subsequent population varied as did the work in construction and later the logging industry in the area.
The company town – which a late Stave Falls resident described as a glorified tent town – had many buildings constructed out of wood frames and tarps between the late 1920s through to the 1950s.
Though cleared of debris since, for many years Hayward Lake was a flooded forest full of dead trees, which had not been logged by the time of the inundation of the canyon of the Stave River, which lies today in the lake’s depths behind Ruskin Dam.
The lake, named for the first operations manager of the Stave Powerhouse, is about 7.5 kilometres long, stretching between the two dams, and about half a kilometre wide, and its beaches and recreation areas are now popular retreat.
In addition to the main public beach at the Stave Falls end of the lake, there are small beaches along the lakeside trail. Swimming, canoeing, and kayaking on most of the lake is now relatively safe, though some “snags” remain. Power boats are prohibited.
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