10 Most Amazing Dams in the US You Must Visit

Last Updated on February 03, 2024 by Nikki Jain

All dams are tall, impressive structures. The tallest dam in the US is the Oroville Dam on the Feather River, standing proud at 770.5 feet. Its primary purpose is to supply water to needed surrounding areas.

Hoover Dam stands 726 feet tall between water-hungry Arizona and Nevada on the Colorado River. The dam is responsible for the US’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead. Its main function is to control flooding. Hoover Dam is also the country's most impressive dam, as it handles the same volume of water that gushes over Niagara Falls.

This article will take you through the awe-inspiring stories behind these amazing dams, from their historical significance to their impact on local ecosystems and communities. Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of US dams.

Most Awe-Inspiring Dams in America

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1: Grand Coulee Dam - Washington

Grand Coulee Dam - Washington
Dreamstime/Edmund Lowe

The Grand Coulee Dam was built in 1933 to harness the waters of the Columbia River. This dam is so massive that it makes the mighty Pyramids look like Lego toys. It contains 12 million yards of hard concrete, and its creation brought life and new towns along the riverbanks.

This is one of the largest dams in the US and more powerful than 1 million locomotives. Its power is close to unimaginable. It was built with 12 million cubic yards of concrete. The dam's primary functions are irrigating 600,000 acres of land, producing electricity, and controlling floods. The excess controlled water from the dam has created the lovely Lake Roosevelt.

The Visitors Center has interactive exhibits and arranges tours. It is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is a bus tour to the top of the dam at 9:00 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Washington

2: Hoover Dam - Nevada and Arizona

Hoover Dam - Nevada and Arizona
Dreamstime/Photoquest

One of the most amazing dams in the US is the Hoover Dam between Nevada and Arizona. By damming up the Colorado River, the Hoover Dam is responsible for creating Lake Mead, which produces water and sustenance for 20 million people in Nevada, Arizona, California, and some of Mexico. It is a marvel of construction visited by 7 million people annually – it is one of Las Vegas' most popular day trips.

A basic tour of the dam is $30.00, with packages available to include the tunnels and an elevator tour to the top. A guided power plant tour is $15.00, with an upgrade to the tunnels available. Self-guided tours are $10.00. The best way to see Hoover Dam is with a tour guide or helicopter service out of Las Vegas.

3: Oroville Dam - California

Oroville Dam - California
Dreamstime/Aruns911

The Oroville Dam, one of the most beautiful dams in the US, is located in the Sierra Nevada and has created Oroville Lake, the second-largest reservoir in the State of California. It helps with flood controls and water storage. The dam is also the second-largest dam in the West.

It is 770 feet high, 40 feet taller than Hoover Dam, and is the tallest dam in the US. It is made of a concrete center of 80 million cubic yards of earth material. There are no official tours, but the Visitors Center does arrange for limited touring experiences. The Center has exhibits, movies, and a viewing tower. It is open Tuesday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The dam’s Feather River Fish Hatchery was created to compensate for lost salmon and trout breeding grounds due to the dam. The hatchery holds up to 8,000 fish released into Oroville Lake when ready.

4: Glen Canyon Dam - Arizona

Glen Canyon Dam - Arizona
Dreamstime/James Phelps

The Glen Canyon Dam, with its concrete arch, created Lake Powell, which is located in Arizona. The second largest human-made lake in the US holds the overflow from the Colorado River Upper Basin for water-deprived western states. The water generates electricity and is used for recreational purposes.

Glen Canyon Dam is one of the famous dams in the US due to the number of states depending on it to prevent droughts and help sustain entire western cities with the 2,846,199,161,000 gallons of water stored in Lake Powell.

Summer hours to see the dam are 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and winter hours are shortened to 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Visitor Center has relevant exhibits and can arrange tours.

5: New Bullards Bar Dam - California

New Bullards Bar Dam - California
Dreamstime/Larry Gevert

Coming close to being one of the largest dams in America, New Bullards Bar Dam is 645 feet high and 2,323 feet long. It stores a million acre feet of water derived from the North and Middle Yuba River and the Oregon Creek. The dam has created a 16-mile reservoir that serves as a busy recreational area. It also serves the efficient purposes of controlling floods and generating power. Very importantly, the dam provides water for four power plants, including the Colgate powerplant.

The Reservoir, near the city of Marysville, has 55 miles of shoreline and hiking trails within the Plumas and Tahoe national forests. It is a great recreational area for boating, fishing, camping, swimming, biking, and kayaking. This is one of the most fun dams in the country.

6: Dworshak Dam - Idaho

Dworshak Dam - Idaho
Dreamstime/Chris Boswell

Dworshak Dam, located in Ahsahka, Idaho, may or may not be one of the largest dams in the US, but it is the largest, tallest, most fantastic dam in Idaho and the third tallest in the country. This towering Goliath rises 717 feet in the air and is 3,287 feet wide. It is the highest straight-axis dam in the Western Hemisphere (just a bit taller; the Hoover Dam does not have a straight axis but is curved). The amount of concrete used to build it is almost immeasurable.

Like other dams, the Dworshak Dam generates electricity and controls floods. This powerhouse has the capacity to power 300,000 homes. The Dworshak Reservoir is just as crucial as the dam. Local wildlife, such as elk, consider the reservoir area their home, and the dam is attached to a fish hatchery to prevent the loss of steelhead trout due to the height of the dam.

Three floors of the Dworshak Visitor Center are filled with exhibits, plus a theatre for those who want to see movies about the area. The Center is open seven days a week during the summer and offers tours across this massive dam, but it is closed on weekends during the winter.

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Idaho

7: New Melones Dam - California

New Melones Dam - California
Wikimedia/Bureau of Reclamation photographer

One of the most important dams in the US is the New Melones Dam, which impounds water from the Stanislaus River to prevent flooding of 35,000 acres of land around Sonora, California. The dam has created the New Melones Reservoir, a much-visited recreational area filled with boat ramps, 300 campsites, and trails for hiking and biking up Table Mountain.

The reservoir has 100 miles of shoreline at an elevation of 1,100 feet. It is popular with water skiers and fishers and attracts a nice crowd during summer weekends. The trout here has been known to exceed 10 pounds. Melone is an old gold rush town, and people still come here with high hopes. All that is needed is a pan and a lot of patience. Who knows? Luck favors the believers.

New Melones Lake Visitor Center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and is filled with exhibits of the gold rush days and culture. Rangers conduct guided tours.

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in California

8: Buffalo Bill Dam - Wyoming

Buffalo Bill Dam - Wyoming
Dreamstime/Tommy Song

Buffalo Bill Dam in Cody, Wyoming – named after the famed frontiersman – was erected on the Shoshone River in 1910. At 350 feet, it was the tallest dam anywhere at the time, one of the first U.S. concrete arch dams, and was a marvel of design. It impounds close to 650,000 acre-feet of water near the Shoshone Power Plant.

The region was too dry for farming and settling. By creating this dam, 900,000 acres were irrigated, and people began to flock to Wyoming. The dam truly opened the state and was even a part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Expo in San Francisco.

Visitors can stroll across the dam and see the Shoshone River and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. The Visitor Center has a film about the dam and its importance to the region's survival. From May through September, the Center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It closes at 5:00 p.m. on weekends.

9: Mansfield Dam - Texas

Mansfield Dam - Texas
Dreamstime/Philip Arno

Mansfield Dam is one of the most amazing dams in the US. It was built after Austin, Texas, was close to being devasted by a flood in 1935. This was not the first time the Colorado River demonstrated its might, and the city was unhappy. The dam is relatively small at 190 feet and was subsequently raised to 265 feet following another flooding catastrophe. It stores 369 billion gallons of water and generates 108 megawatts of electricity. There is no access to the dam.

The reservoir created by the Mansfield Dam, Lake Travis, is one of Austin’s most popular destinations for sailing, scuba diving, sunset cruises, boat parties, picnics, and a nearby waterpark. Brave souls may wish to zipline across the Lake. With access to the boat ramp, Mansfield Park opens daily at 8:00 a.m. and closes at sunset.

Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Texas

10: Theodore Roosevelt Dam - Arizona

Theodore Roosevelt Dam - Arizona
Dreamstime/Bdingman

One of the most memorable dams in the US is the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. It was originally built in a Greco-Roman design with large blocks and cyclopean masonry to harness the Salt River. It became close to being a work of art, rising 357 feet to control 1.6 million acre-feet of the water in Roosevelt Lake, which is the largest lake in water-deprived Arizona and bursting with catfish and bass. It is a popular destination in the Phoenix area.

The Visitors Center offers four-hour tours to the 700-year-old Upper Cliff Dwellings along the Salt River section, which has become Roosevelt Lake. Tours around these amazing caves are available from April to November, starting at 10:00 a.m. The Center is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and has information regarding campsites and local wildlife.

FAQs

1. What is the most powerful dam in the US?

The Grand Coulee Dam, one of the world's most significant structures, is over 5,000 feet long and 550 feet wide. It generates over 21 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

2. What is the most famous dam in the USA?

The Hoover Dam between Nevada and Arizona is undoubtedly the country's most famous dam. It is responsible for creating Lake Mead, which provides water to Las Vegas and surrounding communities. It is also a major tourist attraction out of Las Vegas.

3. How many dams are there in the USA?

Surprisingly, every US 50 states have dams to restrict a river. The number of dams is approximately 91,760, which includes dams in Puerto Rico and Guam. Texas has 7,352 dams, which is more than any other state. Delaware is at the bottom of the list, with only 83 dams.

4. What is the largest dam in America?

At 770 feet, Oroville Dam is the US’s tallest dam, with Hoover Dam being the second tallest. When it comes to water capacity, Hoover Dam holds up to 8.95 cubic miles, while Glen Canyon in Arizona supports up to 8.53 cubic miles of water.

Conclusion

There is no lack of excellent dams in America. They aim to hold back water streams, irrigate communities, and provide electricity, making them impressive structures. Perhaps America's most fantastic dam is the Theodore Roosevelt Dam in Arizona, known for its Greco-Roman style using asymmetrical blocks – which sadly have been covered with concrete. This amazing dam irrigates the Arizona desert with the water collected from the Salt River to provide more farming opportunities.

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