Buntzen Lake Powerhouses: the set of Stephen King’s IT Miniseries~3 min read
The area around Indian Arm, British Columbia, is a very beautiful place to go for a hike: there are many trails accessible by foot, by mountain bike, or by horse. But beware around the Buntzen powerhouses on area’s eastern shore: There were some really creepy clown sightings there some years back!
Buntzen lake used to be named Trout Lake, and was also called Lake Beautiful,and was renamed to Buntzen Lake in 1905 at the opening of the tunnel to Coquitlam Lake.
Along the edge of the water, there is a massive, ancient-looking building with giant rusty penstocks rising high along the side of the cliff beside it. It was BC Hydro’s Powerhouse 2, built in 1914, while powerhouse 1 is just around the corner and was built in 1903.
The old power plant named after the first general manager of the B.C. Electric Co., Johannes Buntzen, was originally built to provide hydroelectric power to Vancouver’s streetcars in the early 20th century.
In 1903 the Buntzen hydroelectric project was put in service by the Vancouver Power Company to provide the first hydroelectric power to Vancouver. Previously, the city had to depend on a 1,500-kilowatt (kW) steam plant for its power supply.
So, a nearly-4-kilometers tunnel was blasted through Eagle Mountain to carry water from Coquitlam Lake to Buntzen Lake, both at a higher elevation than Indian Arm, from which penstocks would carry it to the powerhouses to generate electricity.
Water from the Lake flows through penstocks down the steep mountain slope to the two power plants located on Indian Arm. Buntzen No. 1 was constructed in 1903 with an initial capacity of 1,500 kW. A second powerhouse, Buntzen No. 2, was completed in 1914 with three pelton wheels delivering a total of 26,700 kW to meet Vancouver’s continually increasing demand for secure electricity.
The original power plant was demolished and rebuilt in 1951. The single new turbine and generator was more powerful than the old units which it replaced.
A small community used to be located on the hillside above the plant, to house the workers and their families. However, by 1964 this community became a ghost town.
The picturesque area’s environs and the distinctive buildings (in fact Powerhouse 2 looks like a fortress) have made it a favored set for several movies, including Roxanne, Lake Placid, Freddy Vs. Jason, The Blair Witch Project and the 1990 television miniseries based on Stephen King’s It. Pennywise, the creepy clown in It, spends a lot of time in the sewers, and the old power plant provided the perfect setting for his lair.
The trails from Buntzen Lake lead to the Powerhouse Road which leads to the dam where the road is blocked by a gate. It’s possible reach the Powerhouse 1 but there’s been a lot of signs everywhere warning you to stay the hell away. There are no trails or roads which lead you to Powerhouse 2, approachable only by water.
I should add that, despite this, this is a wonderful hike along the lake and through the wilderness there with incredible views. You can cross many little bridges, mountain streams and there’s even a pictoresque suspension bridge at the north end of the lake.