Big Bend Dam

Big Bend Dam is a major embankment rolled-earth dam on the Missouri River in Central South Dakota, United States, creating Lake Sharpe. The dam was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Pick-Sloan Plan for Missouri watershed development authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944. Construction began in 1959 and the embankment was completed in July 1963. Power generation began at the facility in 1964 and the entire complex was completed in 1966 at a total cost of $107 million. The hydroelectric plant generates 493,300 kilowatts of electricity at maximum capacity, with an annual production of 969 million kilowatt hours,[1] and meets peak-hour demand for power within the Missouri River Basin.

Big Bend Dam
USACE Fort Thompson Big Bend Dam.jpg
Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River, with Lake Sharpe in the background.
Big Bend Dam is located in South Dakota
Big Bend Dam
Location of Big Bend Dam in the State of South Dakota.
Official nameBig Dam
CountryUnited States
LocationBuffalo/Lyman Counties, South Dakota.
Coordinates44°02′58″N 99°26′55″W / 44.049473°N 99.448586°W / 44.049473; -99.448586Coordinates: 44°02′58″N 99°26′55″W / 44.049473°N 99.448586°W / 44.049473; -99.448586
Construction began1959; 63 years ago (1959)
Opening date1963; 59 years ago (1963)
Construction cost$107 million
Owner(s)United States Army Corps of Engineers logo.svg U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District
Dam and spillways
Type of damEmbankment, Rolled-earth shale fill & chalk fill
ImpoundsMissouri River
Height95 ft (29 m)
Length10,570 ft (3,222 m) (including spillway)
Elevation at crest1,423 feet msl
Width (base)1,200 ft (366 m)
Dam volume17,000,000 cu yd (12,997,433 m3)
Spillways8 - 40-foot x 38-foot tainter gates
Spillway typecontrolled (gated)
Spillway capacity270,000 cfs at 1,423 feet msl
CreatesLake Sharpe
Total capacity1,798,000 acre⋅ft (2.217800344×109 m3)
Catchment area5,840 sq mi (15,126 km2)
Surface area56,884 acres (23,020 ha)
Maximum length80 mi (129 km)
Maximum water depth78 ft (24 m)
Normal elevation1,420-1,423 feet msl
Power Station
Operator(s)U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Commission dateOctober 1964
Turbines8 Fixed blade, 81.8 rpm
Installed capacity494,320 Kw
Annual generation969 million kilowatt hours
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Big Bend Dam / Lake Sharpe
Lake Sharpe with visible Big Bend Dam from space, August 1989. View is to the east-southeast.

Located near Fort Thompson, South Dakota, just south of the Big Bend of the Missouri River, a large meander, Big Bend Dam creates Lake Sharpe, named after South Dakota Governor Merrill Q. Sharpe. The lake extends for 80 miles (130 km) up the course of the Missouri River passing through Pierre, the State Capitol, to Oahe Dam, another major power-generating and flood control dam. Lake Sharpe covers a total of 56,884 acres (23,020 ha) and drains an area just under 250,000 square miles (650,000 km2).

South Dakota Highway 47 crosses over the dam, connecting Lyman and Buffalo Counties. Big Bend Dam is located approximately 17 miles (27 km) north of I-90, and approximately 60 miles (97 km) southeast of Pierre.

The next dam upstream is Oahe Dam, near Pierre, and the next dam downstream is Fort Randall Dam, near Pickstown.

Native American tribesEdit

The construction of the dam resulted in the dislocation of people on the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Reservations. The flooding of the land for the reservoir also resulted in the loss of limited plant life resources used by them for food and medicine.

A monument at Big Bend Dam dedicated in 2002, the Spirit of the Circle Monument, honors the more than 1,300 people who died over a three-year period in the 1860s at the Crow Creek Reservation near the present site of the dam.[2]

2011 Missouri River floodEdit

For the first time in the dam's history, the US Army Corps of Engineers opened the dam's spillway gates on the morning of June 3, 2011. In response to the 2011 Missouri River Floods, the dam was releasing 150,000 cubic feet per second (4,200 m3/s), which greatly exceeded its previous record release of 74,000 cu ft/s (2,100 m3/s) set in 1997.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Summary of Engineering Data – Missouri River Main Stem System" (PDF). Missouri River Division. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. August 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  2. ^ Melmer, David (June 19, 2002). "Dakota sacrifice honored". Indian Country Today. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  3. ^ "Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir Bulletin" (pdf). Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved 18 June 2011.[permanent dead link]

External linksEdit