Montana - Fort Peck Lake/Dam

Fort Peck Lake and Dam

Let's start along the lake, looking south and southeast from the Highways 24/117 junction near the town of Fort Peck. The manmade lake goes for 134 miles from here. Let that sink in.

Looking northeast across the earthen dam embankment and the landscape beyond. The dam took 7 years to build (1933 to 1940) with a steady, slow stream of dirt being pumped onto barges and filled in where needed to contain the lake - minus one collapse that killed 8 due to the fill weight triggering a weak point in the underlying shale. Six of those people are still in there, if you want to dig. But please don't.

Panning from south to east as I continue along the top of the dam and north end of the lake.

Continuing that pan from east to north, here's the power plant part of the dam, which started operation in 1943. To sum it up, the construction spanned a majority of the Great Depression and the process didn't conclude until we were out of it! That's a lot of earth for the largest embankment dam in the United States.

Views from the road into the Fort Peck Interpretive Center, which you can just call the "visitor center." The Missouri River flows out of the lake through the twin towers of the power plant, of which the nearer is the original. The flags are at half staff for Memorial Day (2013).

Unlike most dams (think Hoover), the coolest part of the dam isn't part of the structure at all. But then again, most dams have the "power house" incorporated inside.

A nice pond for endless loops of recreation is just west of the Interpretive Center.

Here's one of four outlets that re-form the Missouri River; there's one other tunnel and then the two Power Houses.

Into the small museum collection, starting with the welding helmet and jacket (with eyebar hooks) of one Donald Mohn, who worked at the dam from 1935-1937. That encompasses the peak of dam building, when over 10,000 were working at once in 1936, out of a total of over 50,000 workers throughout its 7-year construction. Now, all of those people had to live somewhere, so the US Army Corps of Engineers built what's now the sub-300 person town of Fort Peck from scratch (north of the then-existing eponymous frontier town, which is now submerged) to house a few thousand, and the rest lived in makeshift shantytowns in the immediate area. Visit the town now, and you'll be hard-pressed to envision its heyday. A lot of the more permanent houses were moved to farms around the state, leaving blocks of empty lots outside the downtown core.

The first photo features assorted government ID buttons and a contractor tag.

I had to close this page with this music stand due to the carved name. The Fort Peck School must have had a brief life in the 1930s-40s, because there's nothing by that name now.

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