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Hungry Horse Dam is an arch dam in the western United States, on the South Fork Flathead River in the Rocky Mountains of northwest Montana. It is located in Flathead National Forest in Flathead County, about fifteen miles (24 km) south of the west entrance to Glacier National Park, nine miles (14 km) southeast of Columbia Falls, and twenty miles (32 km) northeast of Kalispell. The Hungry Horse project, dam, and powerplant are operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The entrance road leading to the dam is located in Hungry Horse.

Hungry Horse Dam
Hungry Horse Dam is located in USA West
Hungry Horse Dam
Location of Hungry Horse Dam in USA West
Hungry Horse Dam is located in Montana
Hungry Horse Dam
Hungry Horse Dam (Montana)
Location Flathead County, near Hungry Horse, Montana, U.S.
Coordinates 48°20′28″N 114°00′50″W / 48.341°N 114.014°W / 48.341; -114.014Coordinates: 48°20′28″N 114°00′50″W / 48.341°N 114.014°W / 48.341; -114.014
Construction began April 21, 1948[1]
Opening date July 18, 1953[2]
65 years ago
Operator(s) U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Concrete thick arch dam
Impounds South Fork Flathead River
Height 564 ft (172 m)[3]
Length 2,115 ft (645 m)[3]
Width (crest) 34 feet (10.4 m)[3]
Width (base) 320 feet (98 m)[3]
Dam volume 2,934,500 cu yd (2,243,600 m3)[3]
Spillway type Gated Morning Glory[3]
Spillway capacity 50,000 cu ft/s (1,400 m3/s)[3]
Creates Hungry Horse
Total capacity 3,467,179 acre feet (4.28 km3)[3]
Catchment area 1,640 square miles (4,200 km2)[3]
Normal elevation 3,560 feet (1,085 m)
above sea level
Power Station
Type Conventional
Hydraulic head 520 ft (160 m)[3]
Turbines 4 x 107 MW Francis turbines[4]
Installed capacity 428 MW[4]
Annual generation 906,720,100 KWh (2007)[4]


Dimensions and statisticsEdit

Bell-mouth spillway

At 564 feet (172 m) in height, the dam was the third largest and second highest concrete dam in the world at the time of its completion in 1953,[2] with a volume of 3,100,000 cubic yards (2,400,000 m3).[3] The dam's spillway is the highest morning glory structure in the world.[3] The spillway is controlled by a 64-by-12-foot (19.5 by 3.7 m) ring gate.[1] The surface elevation of the reservoir is 3,560 feet (1,085 m) above sea level.


Construction was authorized by the Act of June 5, 1944 (58 Stat. 270, Public Law 78-329), and began 70 years ago in April 1948; it was completed on July 16, 1953.

The purposes of the Hungry Horse Project authorized by law are irrigation, flood control, navigation, streamflow regulation, hydroelectric generation, and other beneficial uses such as recreation.[2] However, no irrigation facilities were built and the project has no irrigation obligations. Hydroelectric power generation is the primary purpose of the dam today. Flood control is the dam's other main purpose. The dam, reservoir, and surrounding area are used for recreation. However, the once great lower gorge (Montana's best whitewater) lies submerged underneath.[1]

Hydroelectric power generationEdit

The project contributes to hydroelectric power generation not only at Hungry Horse Dam, but by storing and releasing water for use by downriver hydroelectric dams on the Flathead, Clark Fork, Pend Oreille, and Columbia rivers. About a billion kilowatt–hours are generated annually at Hungry Horse Dam, while in an average year the release water will generate about 4.6 billion kilowatt–hours of power as it passes through the series of downstream powerplants.[2]

Power generating facilities at Hungry Horse Dam are housed in a building constructed across the river channel at the downstream toe of the dam. The original design included four 71,250-kilowatt generators—a total of 285 megawatts installed capacity. The generator capacity was uprated in the 1990s to 107,000 kilowatts each for a total capacity of 428 megawatts.[2]

Nearby and downstream, an aluminum production plant was constructed in the mid-1950s, northeast of Columbia Falls.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Stene, Eric A. "Hungry Horse Project History" (PDF). U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Hungry Horse Project". U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Hungry Horse Dam". U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  4. ^ a b c "Hungry Horse Powerplant". U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  5. ^ Ruder, Mel (November 14, 1954). "Anaconda aluminum plant past halfway mark". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (photo). p. 27.

External linksEdit