Visit the Cité de l’énergie and Shawinigan‑2 generating station!

Mauricie, QC

Reservations and practical information

Aerial view of the Shawinigan hydroelectric complex and the Cité de l’énergie

A hydropower complex to take you back in time

Built in 1910 on the Rivière Saint-Maurice falls, I’m Hydro-Québec’s oldest operating generating station. For a long time, I was the most powerful hydropower generating station in North America. Given my advanced age, that title was taken from me decades ago, but I still impress with my beauty and original equipment. For example, I work with eight generating units, some of which still have a horizontal axis!

The tour of the historical complex begins with an exploration of the inside of the Northern Aluminum Company (N.A.C.) power plant, which is located next to me. Commissioned in 1901, it now welcomes the public in a vast exhibition hall. It houses a collection of fascinating heritage industrial machines, including the original turbines used during the construction of La Loutre dam.

The Cité de l’énergie

The N.A.C. and I are part of the historic sector of the Cité de l’énergie .

Hydro‑Québec is a founding partner, of the Cité de l’énergie, a one‑of‑a‑kind museum complex. It houses a multitude of exhibitions and presents activities that touch on history and science. Here, you’ll get to relive the industrial history of Shawinigan and its region.

Be sure to take the elevator to the top of the lookout tower, an old 115‑metre tower that’s as tall as a 38‑story building. The view is breathtaking!

A sneak peek!

Have a look at these pictures for a hint of what your guided tour has in store for you!

Did you know?

View of the room that houses the horizontal-axis generating units.

Two phases, two technologies

Built in two phases, I’m a monument to the technological advances of the time. I work with eight generating units, five of which have a horizontal axis and three, a vertical one. The workers here must be versatile. They need knowledge dating back to the beginning of the last century!

Aerial view of Shawinigan-2 generating station and the N.A.C.

Canadian flagship

I can say without pretense that I’m one of Canada’s top 25 engineering achievements of the 20th century.

View of the Shawinigan Falls.

Atikamekw roots

The name “Shawinigan” is of Indigenous origin. The Atikamekw nation used the Rivière Saint‑Maurice to travel by canoe for hundreds of years. In Atikamekw, shawinigan means “portage on the crest.”

A group in a penstock at the N.A.C.

A strong flow

In the old N.A.C. penstocks, the water flow rate was 30,000 litres per second, equivalent to the contents of an 18-foot pool or 85,000 cans of pop.

An 1899 urban development plan along the Rivière Saint-Maurice.

The equivalent of Switzerland

The Saint‑Maurice’s watershed covers over more than 40,000 km2. That’s the equivalent of the area of Switzerland! A watershed is a geographical area bounded by ridges that carry rainwater to one place.

Some images are from the Hydro‑Québec Archives.

My history

You may know that I was once considered the flagship of the Shawinigan Water and Power Company’s hydropower fleet. Today, I can boast that I’m the oldest hydropower generating station in Québec still in operation. Here are some milestones in my history.

1879: Demonstration of the arc lamp in Montréal

1897: Opening of the Shawinigan Water and Power Company

At the end of the 19th century, Bostonians John Edward Aldred and John Joyce bought the Shawinigan waterfalls on the Rivière Saint‑Maurice from the Québec government for $50,000, the equivalent of approximately $2,000,000 in today’s dollars. In 1897, the two Americans founded what would become one of the greatest industrial empires of the time, the Shawinigan Water and Power Company (the “SW&P”).

A Shawinigan Water and Power Corporation badge.

Historical collection (2005.0114)

1899–1901: Construction and commissioning of the N.A.C. power plant

With the agreement of SW&P, the N.A.C., the Canadian subsidiary of the U.S.‑based Pittsburgh Reduction Company (ancestor of Alcoa – Aluminum Company of America), built a generating station to supply its aluminum smelters with electricity. It was thanks to the N.A.C. power plant that the first aluminum ingot was cast in Canada on October 23, 1901. In 1925, the N.A.C. became Aluminum of Canada or Alcan (purchased in 2007 by the Anglo‑Australian company Rio Tinto).

View of the N.A.C. and Shawinigan-1 generating stations.

Source: Hydro‑Québec Archives

1910–1911: My construction

Inaugurated in 1901, Shawinigan‑1 generating station was to be expanded shortly thereafter to meet the growing demand for electricity. The SW&P commissioned me in 1911. In 1948, Shawinigan‑3 generating station began operations. The increasingly obsolete Shawinigan‑1 generating station was demolished in 1950, making me the oldest station in Hydro‑Québec’s generating fleet still in operation.

Aerial view of the Shawinigan‑1 and Shawinigan‑2 generating stations in the 1920s.

Source: Hydro‑Québec Archives

1914–1918: World War I

1922–1929: My expansion

Encouraged by the increase in energy demand, SW&P carried out an expansion project to increase my capacity and added vertical‑axis generating units, a novelty at the time. I’m the only generating station in Hydro‑Québec’s generating fleet to have generating units with both vertical and horizontal axes.

September 1929: Generating units 6, 7 and 8 at Shawinigan‑2 generating station

Source: Hydro‑Québec Archives

1929: Stock market crash and beginning of the economic crisis

1939–1945: World War II

1960: Beginning of the Quiet Revolution in Québec

2000: Decommissioning of my control room

My control room, which had been in service since 1911, ceased operations in the year 2000. Controls were then grouped with those of one of Hydro‑Québec’s telecontrol centers to make generation equipment more flexible. A modern control room has been set up to operate the equipment should there be a problem or an emergency.

Equipment in the former control room at Shawinigan‑2 generating station.

It’s well worth the trip!

Don’t take our word for it: this is what the people who visited the generating station with our guides had to say.

A couple visiting the N.A.C. exhibition hall.

A must-see to understand Québec and its great capacity for innovation, as well as its regions and their place in history.

It’s the only place where we can see generating units with a horizontal axis.

It was really well organized. Interesting experiences for everyone, children and adults alike!

A tour guide and visitor inside the N.A.C.

Reservations and practical information

Visitors aged 18 and over must present official photo ID.

(Accepted ID: health insurance card, driver’s license or passport)

At a glance

Admission $

The tour of the Shawinigan-2 and N.A.C. generating stations is offered as part of the visit of the Cité de l’énergie’s historic sector. Admission fees apply to enter the Cité de l’énergie.

Length of tour

About 90 minutes

Tours start at set times. We recommend that you arrive 15 minutes in advance.

Tour schedule

From mid-June to the end of September

Public tour times

Tours start every 30 minutes, from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Schedule for groups

We welcome groups year-round.
Reservations required, subject to availability.

School tours

Reservations are required and must be made with the Cité de l’énergie’s reservation system. Tours are offered based on availability.

Contact information

Shawinigan-2 Generating Station
The Cité de l’énergie
1000, av. Melville
Shawinigan (Québec) G9N 6T9

Tel. : 1 866 900‑2483 (toll‑free) or 819 536‑8516Tel. : 1 866 900‑2483 (toll‑free) or 819 536‑8516 (between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.)
Get in touch by email.

How to get there

Know before you go
(yes, really, it’s important!)


The tour of the generating stations is on foot and includes some stairs. There are also elevators on site. It is partially accessible to people with reduced mobility.


  • The tour of the generating station and the N.A.C is accessible or partially accessible to people with reduced mobility. 
  • The tour offers one or more services for people with impaired vision.
  • The tour offers one or more services for people with impaired hearing.

Minimum age

The tour is suitable for adults and school‑age children but is not recommended for children under the age of two, for safety reasons.

Pacemakers and other medical implants

Electric and/or magnetic fields may disrupt operation of pacemakers, implantable automatic defibrillators and processors in cochlear implants. As a precaution, visitors with these types of medical implants may not participate in the part of the tour that takes place inside the generating station.

Those with a neurostimulator must temporarily stop the device before entering the generating station. If they are unable to stop the device, they are advised not to enter.

For regular tours, there is no risk of interference for insulin pumps.

What to wear

We recommend that visitors wear flat, closed‑toe shoes inside the generating station. Part of the tour takes place outdoors, so dress accordingly!


  • Picnic tables

  • Free parking at the Cité de l’énergie

  • Electric vehicle charging stations

  • Restrooms

  • Campground nearby


Your tour begins at the Cité de l’énergie in Shawinigan. Transportation to the historic hydropower sector is included.

For additional information

Book your tour!

The tour of the Shawinigan-2 and N.A.C. generating stations is offered as part of the visit of the Cité de l’énergie’s historic sector.

Admission fees apply to enter the Cité de l’énergie.

For any other information, call us at 1 866 900‑24831 866 900‑2483.
Get in touch by email.

Tour Rallies

Try one of our two rallies while you’re on the premises, either before or after your tour.

  • “Become an industrial archaeologist!” (for adults and teens)
  • “Discover the N.A.C.” (for children aged 6 to 12)

It’s easy! Download the Tour Rallies app, choose a rally, then have fun taking the quiz! (Psst! The answers to all the questions can be found in the N.A.C.’s permanent exhibition.)

The Tour Rallies app on a cellphone.
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