Theodore Roosevelt Dam

Theodore Roosevelt Dam is a dam on the Salt River located northeast of Phoenix, Arizona. The dam is 357 feet (109 m) high and forms Theodore Roosevelt Lake as it impounds the Salt River. Built between 1905 and 1911, the dam was renovated and expanded in 1989–1996. The dam is named after President Theodore Roosevelt. Serving mainly for irrigation, water supply, and flood control, the dam also has a hydroelectric generating capacity of 36 megawatts.

Theodore Roosevelt Dam
Roosevelt Dam in 2015
CountryUnited States
LocationGila County / Maricopa County, Arizona
Coordinates33°40′18″N 111°09′40″W / 33.67167°N 111.16111°W / 33.67167; -111.16111
Construction began1903 (1903)[1]
Opening date1911
Owner(s)Bureau of Reclamation
Dam and spillways
Type of damArch-gravity dam
ImpoundsSalt River, Tonto Creek
Height357 ft (109 m)
Length1,210 ft (369 m)
Width (crest)21.6 ft (6.6 m)
Width (base)196 ft (60 m)
Dam volume606,000 cu yd (463,000 m3)
Spillway capacity150,000 cu ft/s (4,200 m3/s)
CreatesTheodore Roosevelt Lake
Total capacity1,653,043 acre⋅ft (2.039×109 m3) (conservation)[2]
2,910,200 acre⋅ft (3.590×109 m3) (flood control)[3]
Catchment area5,830 sq mi (15,100 km2)
Surface area21,493 acres (86.98 km2) (conservation)
Power Station
Operator(s)Salt River Project
Hydraulic head249 ft (76 m)
Installed capacity36 MW (48,000 hp)[2]



In 1888, Billy Breakenridge became surveyor for Maricopa County. He surveyed the Salt River for potential dam sites, and in July 1889 he, James McClintock, William J. Murphy, and John R. Norton set off on horseback to select one. A week in they reached Box Canyon, near the confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River and made their choice.[4] However, they lacked the funding to proceed.

The Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 created the United States Reclamation Service, whose purpose was to design and construct irrigation projects to aid the settlement of the arid west. Previous efforts by individuals and private irrigation companies were inadequate and often unsuccessful. With the creation of the Reclamation Service, the lead role of the federal government in developing large-scale irrigation projects was firmly established.

What was to become Roosevelt Dam was one of the original five federal projects authorized on March 14, 1903,[5] under the Act, and the first major project to be completed.

Construction on Roosevelt Dam began in 1903. The primary purpose of the project was to provide water storage for the Salt River Project and flood control through the Salt River Valley. In 1906 Congress initiated federal production of electric power by authorizing the Reclamation Service to develop and sell hydroelectric power at the Salt River Project. The dam was finished in 1911 after several devastating floods had interrupted the construction progress in 1905. Completed at a cost of $10 million, it was the largest masonry dam in the world for its time, and one of the tallest, surpassing the 135-foot Lake Hemet Dam with a height of 280 feet (84 m) and a length of 723 feet (216 m), while 1,600,000 acre-feet (2.0 km3) Roosevelt Lake was for a time the world's largest artificial reservoir. The dam was opened by President Theodore Roosevelt on March 18, 1911.[6]

Roosevelt Dam, as originally conceived and built, was a symbol of success and a showpiece for the new Reclamation agency. The dam contributed more than any other dam in Arizona to the settlement of Central Arizona and to the development of large-scale irrigation there.

The dam was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1963 but was withdrawn from the list in 1999.[7]

Later expansion


In 1989, an ambitious expansion and renovation project was begun at Roosevelt Dam. The dam was resurfaced with concrete by J.A. Jones Construction Company, and its height was raised 77 feet (23 m) to 357 feet (109 m), which had the effect of increasing the storage capacity of Roosevelt Lake by roughly 20%. This project, which included three other major construction contracts associated with the dam, was completed in 1996 at a cost of $430 million. These included the realignment of Highway 188 over the new Theodore Roosevelt Lake Bridge upstream of the dam, renovations to the hydroelectric power plant, and a tunneling contract known as the "Lake Tap" for locating penstocks to bring water into the plant's electric turbines. Shortly after completion, however, the area entered into a prolonged period of drought, and it would be some time before the newly increased capacity was put to use, with the lake finally reaching historic levels of 100% capacity in February 2009.

As a result of the reconstruction, the dam has a completely altered appearance from when it was originally listed as a National Historic Landmark. The original rubble-masonry dam was completely encased in concrete, and the structural height was extended from 280 feet (85 m) to 357 feet (109 m). Since the dam no longer had the integrity of the design, materials, workmanship, feeling, or association that it had when it was originally listed, the National Historic Landmark designation was withdrawn on March 10, 1999. The Theodore Roosevelt Dam National Register District contains other resources that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the dam itself is no longer a contributing property to the district.[7]



  1. ^ "General Information". Dam Details – Theodore Roosevelt Dam. United States Bureau of Reclamation. Archived from the original on 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  2. ^ a b "Theodore Roosevelt Dam". Salt River Project. Archived from the original on 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  3. ^ "Hydraulics and Hydrology". Dam Details – Theodore Roosevelt Dam. United States Bureau of Reclamation. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  4. ^ "William "Billy" Breakenridge – Lawman, Surveyor, Author – Legends of America". Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  5. ^ Overview of the first 5 Reclamation Projects Retrieved on 2015-1-14
  6. ^ "Life blood of valley turned into its arteries by Theodore Roosevelt". The Arizona Republican. March 19, 1911. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Withdrawal of National Historic Landmark Designation: Roosevelt Dam, Gila and Maricopa Counties, Arizona". Archived from the original on 2016-11-25. Retrieved 2016-11-25.