Courtesy of Wellington County Museum and Archives

This written history of Belwood Lake is a bit wordy. But it’s worth a read to discover Belwood Lake’s rich and storied history.

The formation of Belwood Lake was both dramatic and historic. 

And it all began with the Grand River. 

The lake was created in 1942 with the construction of the Shand Dam which was erected for flood control, hydro power, and water conservation purposes. 

Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Nope. It’s a story full of as many twists and turns as the Grand River itself. And it took place in the era of The Great Depression and World War ll.

The Grand River snakes its way from Dundalk in the north emptying into Lake Erie some 290 kilometres away. 

Along its route it flows into Belwood Lake at the north end of the lake in the village of Belwood. The Belwood Lake reservoir is 12 kilometres/7.5 miles long and ends at the southern end of the lake at the Shand Dam.

In the “dirty thirties” during The Great Depression, the Grand River Conservation Commission (GRCC) took drastic action. 

Continued flooding along the Grand River watershed and in the village of Belwood had become a big problem.

The GRCC took action. They put a reservoir plan and funding into place.

Then the GRCC began to buy properties in the Belwood downtown area including a bake shop, bank, drug store, general store, grocery store, hardware store, hotel, ice cream parlour, millinery shop, shoe store, tailor shop, and telephone office. 

Half of Belwood was impacted by the construction of the dam

2,000 acres were purchased representing the area that would be flooded by the 12-kilometre lake that would be formed. Construction began in 1939 just before World War ll began. 

By the time construction was completed in 1942, the entire project cost a whopping $2 million – underwritten by federal and provincial governments, and 8 local municipalities. 

Courtesy of Wellington County Museum and Archives

At the height of the project 200 men toiled to build the dam, housed in a dozen buildings in an on-site construction camp.

By the end of January 1942, the dam was complete.

The Canadian Pacific Railway had been diverted during the construction of the dam.

On March 9, 1942 the first train rumbled across the dam. 

Time to party!

On August 7th, 1942 the town of Fergus hosted a massive street party to celebrate the opening of the dam.

3,500 people partied in the streets with food provided by Rayner Construction, the company hired to build the dam. It was the largest party ever held in Fergus. Rock on.

Today, the Elora Cataract Trailway cuts across the Shand Dam. Views of the Grand River Valley from the top of the dam are spectacular. 

Head on out there and take in the beauty from the top of this engineering marvel. Take a peek INSIDE the Shand Dam!

Fun Fact: Shand Dam is 22.5 metres/74 feet high! About the height of a 7-storey building!

Fun Fact: 120 steps lead from the top of Shand Dam to the bottom!

Fun Fact: Storage capacity of the Shand Dam is 63.9 million cubic metres!

Helpful Tip: Google Maps Link Shand Dam