Now Reading
Giant’s Staircase Spillway at the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir

Giant’s Staircase Spillway at the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir

WOE Media

The Robert-Bourassa Reservoir is an impressive landscape feature in Canada. It is a man-made lake situated in the northern section of the Canadian city of Quebec, created in the 1970s. Created as an integral part of the James Bay Project, the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir supplies the water required for the Robert-Bourassa and La Grande-2-A hydroelectric power generating stations. The main source of attraction to this lake, however, is its Giant’s Staircase, which evokes a feeling of awe in all those who see it.


The Robert-Bourassa Reservoir can be found developed at the back of the Robert-Bourassa Dam, which straddles a valley around the La Grande River. The construction of the dam took place from 1974 to 1978 and this dam has now given rise to what is considered the largest underground generating station in the world. The base of the reservoir is put at about 550 meters and it has a fill capacity of around 23 million cubic meters. To keep water from overflowing or escaping the reservoir, there are 31 additional levees.

The reservoir covers a surface area in excess of 2,800 square kilometers with a surface elevation estimated as possibly as high as 175 meters. The capacity of the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir is put at more than 61 billion cubic meters, with just about a third of this volume available for power generation. This man-made wonder stands as high as a 53-storey building and holds enough water to serve approximately 10,000 liters of water to each individual on the face of the earth before it can run dry. Impressive, you’d say!

The Spillway

The main draw of the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir, however, is its massive spillway, which is fittingly described as the Giant’s Staircase. Shaped like a staircase, this spillway is designed to enable excess water from the reservoir to flow out without making room for spillage over the dam. The only exception for spillage is during flooding periods when water levels become too high to contain. The step-like nature of this spillway helps to guard against erosion and prevent damage that could be caused by kinetic energy of flowing water.

If you look at some pictures of this stairway, you may be deceived into thinking that its giant description is nothing but an exaggeration. You will only realize the real thing when you draw closer. The about two-kilometer long spillway features 10 steps, each of which stands at 10 meters tall and is 122 meters wide. Each step is possibly as large as two football fields. The spillway has an amazing discharge capacity estimated at 16,280 cubic meters of water per second.

Visiting the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir

The Robert-Bourassa Reservoir plays host to numerous thousands of visitors every year. To make things easy for visitors, trained guides are provided to make sure you have a memorable experience. Admissions are free and you can visit all year round, but tours are mostly conducted in French. English tours, however, are available on appointment. If you intend to visit, it is recommended that you make reservations at least 48 hours in advance. Visitors who are 18 years or older are required to produce an official photo ID before being granted tours, which are not advised for children less than two years due to safety considerations. Pacemaker users are also not allowed to be part of tours taking place in the Robert-Bourassa power generating facility because of the presence of electromagnetic fields that compromise the operation of a pacemaker.

There are water ramps in the vicinity of the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir and you may have opportunity to do a bit of Golden trout fishing there. You can find different accommodation options around the Radisson area, where canoe rental and catering services as well as restaurants are available. Other points of interest around the Robert-Bourassa Reservoir include Arts et tresors inouis crafts boutique, Destination Radisson and Parc Robert-A-Boyd.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.