Located on the Puntledge River, at the outlet of the Comox Lake Reservoir, the Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area is one of my favorite spots to grab a quick after work or after hike snack. The lake is full of mining and forestry history, and is also an important part of the water shed that supplies the Comox Valley.
The lake as we know it was formed in 1913, when Canadian Collieries Ltd. completed the construction of a hydroelectric facility on the Puntledge River to supply power to local coalmines. The facility consisted of an impoundment dam on Comox Lake, a low diversion dam, an intake structure 4 km downstream of Comox Dam, and a flume and penstock system conveying the water to a powerhouse a further 7 km downstream.
In 1953, the British Columbia Power Commission initiated a project to expand the facility, a project completed in 1956. The new facility included a 5.1 km long penstock from the diversion dam to a 24 MW powerhouse located on the right bank of the Puntledge River.
While this is a popular area for swimming, it is also a dangerous place to be and is clearly marked as such, especially upstream of the hydro dam. I stick to the area downstream of the dam and enjoy the river within my abilities and with a mind to the often unpredictable nature of the river.
- Hydroelectric facilities can be dangerous. For your safety, obey all posted signs, and avoid the hazard areas above and below Comox Lake Dam, Puntledge Diversion Dam and the Puntledge Powerhouse.
- Boaters in Comox Lake reservoir should be aware of shallow channels, exposed stumps and floating debris.
- Water releases may occur suddenly without warning downstream of the Puntledge River Diversion Dam. This increases currents and creates hazards for recreational river users.
- If you hear a siren that means the water level is rising fast. Keep out of the river channel area.