Damn! I Love This Dam Site.
March 1, 2007 10:04 PM   Subscribe

A Damned Good Dam Site. The Fort Peck Dam in Montana, authorized by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 and completed in 1940, is the largest hydraulically filled dam in the United States. The website is a wonderful compendium of history, technology, tragedy, personal stories, photographs, a webcam and much more. The dam also has the distinction of being featured on the very first Life Magazine cover, photographed by Margaret Bourke-White.
posted by amyms (18 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
On a personal note: My paternal grandfather died while working on the Fort Peck Dam, one month before my father was born. I found the site while doing some research... It's so interesting and richly detailed; I just had to share it.
posted by amyms at 10:04 PM on March 1, 2007

Wow, amyms, that is a beautiful site and post. Thank you!
posted by owhydididoit at 10:20 PM on March 1, 2007

Fascinating link -- thanks! My grandfather worked on this dam, too. I'll be forwarding the link to my family.
posted by event at 11:16 PM on March 1, 2007

What is a "hydraulically filled" dam?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:36 PM on March 1, 2007

My dad worked at that dam in the mid 1960s before I was born. My parents would tell me that it was very cold in Fort Peck and they transfered to the then new Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona where I was born. My old man will still say, "you think its cold here, in Ft. Peck it was twenty below yesterday."

When your dad worked in hydro, you got to live in such exotic locales as Page, AZ; Bullhead City, AZ; Grand Coulee, WA and Redding, CA. But it was cool to go to dad's work and see the engineering marvels.

I remember my parents having a copy of that Life magazine.
posted by birdherder at 11:37 PM on March 1, 2007

Damn good post amyms.

That last link to Margaret Bourke-White deserves an FPP of its own.
posted by three blind mice at 11:48 PM on March 1, 2007

What is a "hydraulically filled" dam?

My thought too. Looking at the site, it seems that instead of building a dam across a river (e.g., Hoover Dam) and filling a gorge behind the dam, a hydraulically filled dam is built by excavating a big hole some distance from the river and filling it with water from pipes laid into the riverbed. The current provides hydraulic pressure.
posted by three blind mice at 11:52 PM on March 1, 2007

It's so cool to see other posters who had family members connected to Fort Peck... My grandfather's story has been passed down as family lore (and unfortunately, my grandmother and my dad are both deceased now, so I have to go by memory alone)... My grandfather died of pneumonia after he was crushed in an accident at the dam, a month before my father was born... My grandfather's co-workers later raised money (by pawning their personal belongings) to send my grandmother home to Kansas by train, with her brand-new baby (my father) and her 5-year-old daughter (my aunt), and her dead husband in a casket... She (my grandmother) had to sue the government to get survivors' benefits for herself and her children.
posted by amyms at 12:10 AM on March 2, 2007

Damn libruls with their wasteful government spending.
posted by bardic at 12:16 AM on March 2, 2007

Damn libruls with their wasteful government spending.

Shouldn't that be "dam" libruls? :P
posted by amyms at 12:22 AM on March 2, 2007

posted by LobsterMitten at 12:25 AM on March 2, 2007

Damn libruls with their wasteful government spending.

Indeed. If not for the WPA and the massive government organisation needed to complete these equally massive projects, the USofA would have been woefully unprepared for WW2. The irony of it all: thanks to Roosevelt and his "socialist" New Deal, capitalism was able to defeat fascism.
posted by three blind mice at 12:30 AM on March 2, 2007

Actually, my dad was involved in that kind of thing, too. He spent 25 years working for the Corps of Engineers here in Portland. He was an EE, specializing in high power, and I remember that one of the big projects he was involved in was a new powerhouse for the Dalles Dam.

One time he took us out there and sweet-talked a guard into letting us inside the powerhouse to see the generators. We weren't in there for long, but I still remember that scene. Very amazing.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:34 AM on March 2, 2007

The Life cover reminds me of some of these anti skate devices
posted by nervousfritz at 12:35 AM on March 2, 2007

Another hydraulically constructed dam collapsed in 1918 while it was being built.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:48 AM on March 2, 2007

It looks like "hydraulically" constructed dams are built by washing silt into a form and then letting the debris settle out, forming the dam. I imagine this has some of the advantages of concrete, in that you don't have to pack earth or lay rip rap, but the disadvantage from the description seems to be that the dam is very weak until a lot of the water has left the sediment. An interesting technology.
posted by maxwelton at 1:03 AM on March 2, 2007

Way, WAY cool - thanks for this, amyms. It's in my backyard - by Montana standards - but I haven't yet visited. I plan to this summer.
posted by davidmsc at 5:05 AM on March 2, 2007

Thanks Amy! It's in my Montana backyard as well. And I list Bourke-White as one of my photographic inspirations.
posted by The Deej at 3:56 PM on March 2, 2007

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