The longest multiple-arch dam in the world is a short drive from Joplin

Pensacola Dam also referred to as Grand Lake Dam, construction began in 1938.
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MAYES COUNTY, Okla. — The GRDA (Grand River Dam Authority) operates the Pensacola Dam. The world’s largest multiple-arch buttress dam is located on the Grand River in-between Disney and Langley in Northeast Oklahoma.

It was built beginning in 1938 for purposes of hydroelectric power generation, flood control and recreation.

Pensacola Dam, US Army Corps of Engineers image.

Pensacola Dam, image courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District, March 2011.

The idea to construct a dam on the Grand River originated in the late 1800s with Henry C. Holderman, a Cherokee Nation citizen, who wanted to provide electric power to the Cherokee Nation. Holderman and a few colleagues soon conducted the first survey of the river in 1895 on their own handmade houseboat. Holderman later left the United States at the age of 16 and worked on dam projects in India and Africa before returning to Oklahoma. He sold his land holdings and borrowed money from friends in order to purchase rights to the dam sites he had prospected.  Over several decades, Holderman and a group known as the “Rainbow Chasers” tried to secure funding to construct the dam; making several trips to Washington DC. Read more at WIKI.

The dam is a short drive from Joplin, Mo. Click here for directions, the trip one-way is about an hour.

GOOGLE MAPS VIEW OF THE DAM. USE =/- TO NAVIGATE.

For up-to-the-minute levels and conditions click here. Here are conditions the day we filmed this video, there was a gate change:

  • Tuesday, 10 May 2022 1300
    • Pool Elevation = 751.79 feet.
    • Total Release = 54762 (cfs)
      • Gate Release = 41370 (cfs)
      • Turbine Release = 13392 (cfs)
    • Gate Settings:
      • 3 Tainter Gates open 25.0 FT

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