The first road linking Golden and Revelstoke opened in 1929 following the river. It was paved and officially opened in June 1940. Before 1929, motorists had to ship their cars between Revelstoke and Golden by rail. It was not possible to drive from the prairies to the west coast all inside Canada.
The Big Bend Route ran 314 km along a northern curve of the Columbia River. And this route along the east bank of the Columbia was unpaved, cross the river at its northern tip, and was closed in the winter. The road enabled timber and resource extraction along the route.
The famous North Bend aerial ferry (based on a similar aerial car ferry north of Lillooet), operated from 1940 until 1986, when it was replaced by a bridge.
When Canada and the United States ratified the Columbia River Treaty in 1964, which included authorizing the construction of Mica Dam in the Big Bend north of Revelstoke. Kinbasket Reservoir which would form behind the dam would flood the old highway, and so a new route between Revelstoke and Donald and Golden would be needed.
Mica Dam, a hydroelectric dam spanning the Columbia River 135 kilometres north of Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada, was built as one of three Canadian projects under the terms of the 1964 Columbia River Treaty and is operated by BC Hydro. The earthfill dam was completed in 1973 to a height of 244 metres (801 ft) above bedrock, near the original location of the village of Mica Creek, in turn named for the local abundance of mica minerals. The Mica powerhouse had a generating capacity of 1,805 megawatts (MW).
The reservoir for the dam is Kinbasket Lake (first named McNaughton Lake), which covers 427 kilometre2 (165 sq mi), holding back 7,000,000 acre·ft (8.6 km3) of water under the treaty and another 5,000,000 acre·ft (6.2 km3), referred to as “non-Treaty storage”. In 2014-15 two more generators were added, brining total generating capacity of 2,805 MW.
Travelers along the Trans-Canada can see the eastern end of Kinbasset Lake as the highway climbs form the Donald Bridge over the Columbia River west of Golden. There is a rest stop on the north side of the highway at the top of that hill.
The Revelstoke Dam (also known as Revelstoke Canyon Dam), is a concrete hydroelectric dam across the Columbia River, 5 km (3.1 mi) north of Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada. The dam is impressive at 175m high. The powerhouse is operated by BC Hydro and was completed in 1984, with a generating capacity of 2480 MW. Four generating units were installed initially, with one additional generator added in 2011.
The reservoir behind the dam is named Lake Revelstoke. The lake inundated the Columbia’s canyon including the historic Dalles des Morts (Death Rapids) and some former gold diggings of the Big Bend Gold Rush of the 1860s.
The Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre is at the base of the dam, and has interactive exhibits about the dam and hydroelectricity and a gallery about the area First Nations including the Secwepemc (Shuswap), Okanagan and Ktunaxa peoples. Below the dam is the BC Forestry Museum, with some impressive logging equipment on display.