Updated: Nov 3, 2019
Few things in Vancouver are free, ask anyone living here and they will tell you most things come at a price. That being said there are a few attractions that still remain free, including Cleveland Dam. I know what you must be thinking, a dam doesn’t exactly seem worthy of writing about, you have every right to believe that but hear me out; Cleveland Dam is more than just your average dam.
Let’s throw in some history on the dam so you’re up to date and educated. Cleveland Dam is located in North Vancouver, very close to Grouse Mountain. Construction started in 1951 and was completed in 1954 to hold back the Capilano Lake. Named after engineer Ernest Albert Cleveland, who served as the first chief commissioner of the Greater Vancouver Water District from 1926 until his death in 1952.
As well as supplying water to the lower mainland, it is also a popular filming location within the movie industry; from Smallville to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the dam is featured. The most recent appearance was in Shane Black’s The Predator as the facility where the predator was being kept. What a tragic movie, just pure shit, but now is not the time. If you're a fan of the TV series' The Flash or Arrow then you certainly will be familiar with Cleveland Dam.
Starting off at the dam, the views of the mountains and Capilano Lake are worth the visit alone. The landscape is truly unreal and hard to believe it’s only a short drive away from Vancouver. The dam itself offers views looking down over the waterfall, throughout winter it is just a constant wrath of sheer power flowing through to the lower mainland. In summer however, the dam is dry. It's worth a visit in both seasons to see the contrast and to experience Capilano River Regional Park in both winter and summer which is connected to the dam. Don’t panic though, I’m pretty sure there are no bears around.
From the top of the dam, take the walk through Capilano River Regional Park, as well as crossing bridges with 100 ft drops, there are plenty of scenic breaks to unwind. There are several trails to experience but the best trail is the Capilano Dam Loop which figure 8s the park and you eventually end up back at the dam. Along the way there are towering Douglas fir and western red cedar trees, some closing in to being 100 years old. Continue the walk and discover the hatchery located at the bottom of the dam. The best is saved until last with a viewpoint looking straight up the dam, how to describe it? Ever stood close to a waterfall? Same feeling just with a man-made dam.
If you find yourself in Vancouver, or have just moved and need that little break from urban, self-righteous infrastructure, then find your inner peace, or what’s left of it, at Cleveland Dam. Roughly a 15 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. By public transport, you need to catch the 236 bus located in North Vancouver. So, if trees, nature trails, hatcheries and a massive dam seems like your idea of having a swell time then find out more information at www.metrovancouver.org.