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Dams of the United States

Updated on March 8, 2013

Dams in the United States

Water is one of the most difficult elements to control. Dams have served regions of the United States for a variety of reasons such as controlling water resources, diverting the flow of water to a more feasible location or to retain water in areas where it may be limited.

The Types of Dams in the US

There are several types of dams erected in various states throughout the United States. For example, earth-filled or "earthen" dams such as the Deer Creek Dam in Utah on the Provo River are one example of engineering designs. The Hiwassee Dam in North Carolina is a gravity dam that controls the flow of water from the Hiwassee River. This dam is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority. In New Mexico, the Bluewater Dam, impounds the flow of water to create a lake one mile by seven miles for the sole purpose of irrigation. This type of dam is known as a movable crest dam. A roller gate dam regulates the flow in the Upper Mississippi River. Rock filled dams are engineered with a cross section with side slopes in a triangular shape. Rock dams are proven to be the most economical.

The Most Famous Dam

The Hoover Dam is perhaps the most well-known US dam. At 726 feet in height, it is also the tallest arch-gravity dam in the western hemisphere. It's located between Arizona and Nevada in the famous Black Canyon of the Colorado River. The Hoover Dam was instrumental in the creation of the man-made lake, Lake Mead.

In addition to river regulation, the Hoover Dam provides flood control, irrigation and generates electric power. Another example of an arch gravity design can be found in Great Falls, Montana at the massive Hungry Horse dam over the Flathead River. There are a series of dams in Montana that control water flow from the Missouri River.

Take a Tour of US Dams

An interesting vacation for tourists might be one that is comprised of tours of the most structurally interesting dams in the US. In the east, Massachusetts' Cobble Mountain is an earth fill design. New York's Mount Morris, New Croton, Kensico and Merriman are examples of gravity dams . The Ashokan in New York is a combination gravity and fill dam.

In the southern states, tourists can visit the Bull Shoals and Norfolk dams in Arkansas. In Alabama, the Wilson Dam is located in Mussel Shoals. The concrete fill type Philphott Dam is located in Virginia and the gravity designed, Tygart Dam is found in West Virginia. The Kentucky Dam is an earth fill and concrete structure over the Tennessee River where it nears the state of Ohio. The Wolfe Creek is another Kentucky dam.

In the Midwest, the Kirwin Dam in Kansas is an embankment design that's earth filled, packed with fine soil and clay and overlain with rock known as "rip rap." A tour of the most interesting dams in the US should include the Davenport Dam over the Mississippi River in Iowa.

Dams of the West and Southwest

Dams exist in most of western and southwestern states as a necessary water supply or retention for mountain runoff. There's the Dixie Canyon and Green Mountain dams in Colorado, the Coolidge dam in Arizona, the Boysen and Cortes Dams in Wyoming, the Buchanan and Falcon dams in Texas, the Garrison dam in North Dakota and several dams in California like the O'Shaughnessy Dam, the main dam that supplies water to San Francisco.

US Dams Towering Giants of Modern Convention

US dams have been a source of employment in fiscally difficult economies in the US and around the world. These dams also supply many arid regions with water and electrical power. The engineering of dams begins with designs that suit the soil, location and water that requires control. Since flooding has become a major problem in several regions of the United States, this might encourage more construction of dams that would reduce the massive cost of damage from floods while also adding new opportunities for much needed employment.


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