Built for the People
We’re honoring 32 of the dams TVA built as a direct result of the Unified Development of the Tennessee River System plan—bringing flood control, electrification, navigation, water quality, recreation, economic development and many other benefits to the Tennessee Valley.
Wilson Dam was built for WWI, but the war ended before it could spin up its turbines. After years spent in limbo, the dam gained new purpose with the founding of TVA to become our largest hydroelectric facility.
In 1936, a unified development plan laid out the tactics by which TVA would build dams to transform the poverty-stricken, often-flooded Valley into a modern, electrified and developed slice of America.
A modernistic quilt, made in the 1930s by wives of men working on Wheeler Dam in Alabama, represents both the African-American culture at that time and the support the community received from TVA.
Tims Ford Dam is operated in such a way as to provide tailwater temperatures cold enough to support a thriving trout fishery, yet warm enough to support the endangered boulder darter.
Scorned at the outset as a scheme worthy of Rube Goldberg, TVA’s pumped-storage generating plant inside Raccoon Mountain became one of the engineering wonders of the Tennessee Valley.
There’s no doubt that TVA’s dams transformed the Valley and made life easier for its residents. For some, though, the unified plan meant sacrificing home and community to the greater good.
Ocoee Dam No. 3 was built to help meet energy needs during wartime, with little hope for recreation. Flash forward fifty years, and you get an Olympic whitewater course and a world-class tourist destination.
The secret is out: Nottely Dam and its reservoir, tucked away in the mountains of North Georgia, provide some of the most gorgeous scenery and best fishing in the Southeast.
During WWII, Ernie Pyle described the fighting in simple language. But his fame began before the war, when he set out to explain the American experiment called TVA, being built at Norris Dam.
Hiwassee Dam and the reservoir it created are both known for beautiful scenery, canoeing and rafting. But in the 1940s and 50s, Hiwassee also played a key role in serving the nation’s defense.
Although it's not the linchpin of the TVA river system, Ocoee Dam No. 2 and its funky flume were front and center at the 1996 Olympics and are now ensconced on the National Register of Historic Places.
TVA’s odd dam out, Great Falls, began operations in January of 1917 as a premier project of the Tennessee Electric Power Company. It was purchased 22 years later by TVA and remains the quirkiest.
In its early days, TVA valued form as well as function. It even hired a staff artist, Robert Birdwell, to capture its work on canvas. His work adorns the visitor center at Fort Patrick Henry Dam.
What’s in a name? When it comes to TVA dams, nothing less than a pocket history of the Tennessee River and the people who settled the region. The origin of one name is still anybody's guess.
Spurred by wartime necessity, TVA put up Fontana Dam, the tallest dam east of the Rockies with record speed. The dam no one could get to eventually became the most visited in the TVA system.
At the outset of World War II, Congress approved the Douglas Dam Bill to provide power for the war effort — in particular, to produce the aluminum for aircraft. The dam was finished in just over a year.
The thought probably never crossed the minds of Axis war planners, but America’s World War II arsenal included a secret weapon: TVA, which could provide a massive amount of power for the war effort.
Operated initially to strengthen flows for war-time power production at downstream dams, Chatuge later came into its own as a power producer, multiple-purpose reservoir and picturesque recreation area.
Tucked away amid north Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains lies Blue Ridge Dam and the sparkling reservoir it creates on the Toccoa River—an oasis for adventure seekers and leisure lovers alike.
The aerating labyrinth weir constructed below South Holston Dam in upper East Tennessee has multiple benefits — chief among them creating oxygen-rich water that has fostered a world-class brown trout fishery.
Isolated Apalachia Dam made a big contribution to wartime airplane construction. Today, it’s an off-the-beaten-path paradise for trout fishermen looking for big catches and scenic views.
Tellico Dam is one of the most controversial projects in TVA history. Although the region now supports a thriving recreation industry due to the reservoir, its impoundment came with costs.
TVA’s Nickajack Dam was built to replace the ever-leaking Hales Bar Dam, which—built as it was in 1913—held the distinction of being the first dam ever on the main stem of the Tennessee River.
When raging floodwaters threatened Paducah, Ky., construction workers from Guntersville Dam set out to offer aid. Along the way, they rescued a cocky rooster who would become Guntersville's mascot.