Harnessing the power of nature: the most impressive hydropower dams in Québec

January 15, 2024

The hydropower industry has shaped the province of Québec, both literally and figuratively. Its traces are visible everywhere you look, from small power stations dotted along the Saint Lawrence River to mega projects that completely dominate the landscape. Those alighting at some of our ports of call during a Québec cruise can explore this fascinating part of the province’s heritage, and those interested in learning more about this facet of the area’s development should not miss an opportunity to visit the following four destinations.

Suggested circuit:

  • Québec’s Montmorency Falls
  • Trois-Rivières and La Mauricie region
  • Lachine Canal in Montréal
  • Baie-Comeau’s Daniel-Johnson complex

Let the Montmorency Falls spark your interest


While the first hydropower installation was developed in the United States, Québec soon followed suit with a station launched in 1885 near the Montmorency Falls. Its sole purpose was to light up Québec City, and while marveling at the sight of the Chateau Frontenac flooded with light at night-time, you’ll agree it was a worthwhile endeavor!  

 Those stopping by the falls for a photo opp will understand why this site was chosen: the strength and power of the river are impressive. Thrill chasers can try ziplining above the falls for an electrifying experience!

 Catch the buzz at La Cité de l’Énergie

While Trois-Rivières is mostly known as a hub for the pulp and paper industry, with its famous pitounes floating on the Saint-Maurice River, its role in the history of hydropower is not to be neglected. 

Those with a bit more time can stop here and travel north (a short 30-minute ride) to Shawinigan, home of La Cité de l’Énergie. This installation features immersive exhibitions dedicated to the history of hydropower in Québec. Visitors can tour the site, as well as the NAC and the Shawinigan-2 power plants. Yes, that’s two power plants for the price of one!

Power down at the Lachine Canal (Montréal)

Although this fact is seldom remembered, the Lachine Canal in Montréal was the site of the first hydropower generating station in Montréal. Today, however, it is known for another reason: as a pleasant urban park. Visitors and residents alike flock here to enjoy a stroll, a picnic or a bike ride. In winter, the park even features a groomed snowshoe trail. 

 Step off the ship directly onto the 14.5 km route, which conveniently begins at the Old Port and takes people through many heritage sites showcasing Montréal’s industrial past. And quite a few restaurants, bars and galleries too, of course!

 Get grounded at the Daniel-Johnson dam

The history of Baie-Comeau has been intrinsically linked to the hydropower industry since its very foundation. The area has now become the site of one of the most impressive mega projects: the Daniel-Johnson dam (previously known as Manic-5), often described as “an iconic symbol of Québecois ingenuity.” 

 This project alone has fascinated the world and marked the history of hydroelectric power in North America. But aside from its impressive CV, the complex is a sight to behold. It is the largest multiple arch-and-buttress dam in the world. Walking underneath its arches is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

 The dam is located in the breathtaking Manicouagan Valley, which is accessible from Baie-Comeau. Make sure you take the two-hour guided tour to learn everything there is to know about this amazing feat of engineering. 

For those hoping for a closer alternative, the Jean-Lesage generating station (Manic-2) is a quick 20-minute journey from the port. However, it can be just as interesting thanks to its 420-tonne rotor, spinning at a speed of 240 km/hr. Enough to make your head spin too!

Generating renewable energy


Wide open spaces, strong powerful rivers: Québec has everything needed to create the kind of clean, renewable energy we need to sail together towards a more sustainable future. This is why the Port of Montréal is one of only 29 ports worldwide to offer shore power, a sustainable and cost-efficient option for cruise ships as they dock in Montréal. Read all about it in our shore power article.  

 And don’t forget to look out for those magnificent hydropower installations, an impressive reminder of Québec’s dedication to sustainability.

 Find out more about the Cruise the Saint Lawrence sustainable development guidelines on our sustainability page