– Ben Martens

Fort Peck Dam

I didn’t know a lot about Fort Peck, MT before I visited, but it’s a really interesting place. The town started as a trading post along the Missouri River. In 1934, The Army Corps of Engineers rolled in and built a new town about 2 miles from the original town to house all the workers for the big dam project. A number of shanty towns grew up around the area too to house the ~10,000 workers. Some of those buildings are still around, including the hotel where we had brunch on Sunday.

The dam is a monstrosity and it’s incredible to think about workers in the 30s, 40s and 50s building something that enormous. The dam itself is made up of rock and earth. It’s a shade under 4 miles long and 250 feet tall. The coast line of the reservoir is longer than the coast line of California. The reservoir is the 5th largest man made lake (by volume) in the United States.

To get enough dirt for the project, they dredged a bunch of dirt and pumped it to the dam. We went swimming in one of those dredge cut lakes while we were there. They had to modify their design in flight because part of the dam slid while they were building it.

PBS has a great video about the building of the dam. Unfortunately we can’t watch it online here, but it’s a regional thing so maybe it will work for you. Even if it doesn’t work, you should be able to watch a ~3 minute preview.

In the picture below, you can see the road that runs along the top of the dam. To the right there is a park by smaller lake below the dam and that’s where we had the family reunion. Up on the hill on the right side of the picture is the town of Fort Peck. I hope that we’ll get to go back and visit again some day!