TVA dam

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

A Dam for the People

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.

Building a better life

Building a Better Life for the Tennessee Valley

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.

Wilbur dam

The Grand Old Dam

Beautiful, venerable Wilbur Dam, the second oldest in the TVA system, encapsulates much history and serves the Tennessee Valley in many ways even today.

TVA quilt

The TVA Quilt

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 model

Running Hot and Cold

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.

Raccoon Mountain

The Mountaintop Marvel

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.

Pickwick dam

The Lost Towns of Pickwick

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 whitewater rafting

From War Machine to World-Class Whitewater

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.

Nottely dam

The Quiet Beauty of Nottely

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.

Norris Dam construction

Norris Dam: “No Flood of Worry”

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.

Melton Hill dam

A Dam of Firsts

Built in the relative peacetime of the early 1960s, Melton Hill Dam piled up an impressive list of firsts, from commercial navigation to appropriations to sustainable recreation.

Kentucky Dam dedication

TVA’s Mightiest Dam

In dedicating the massive Kentucky Dam, President Harry S. Truman summed up the success of TVA, a formula comprised of modern science, good management and common sense.

Hiwassee dam

Torpedo Testing at Hiwassee

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.

Ocoee 2 Dam

The Little Dam That Could

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.

Workers on Ocoee Dam

The Global View

By the time TVA set out to reclaim the environmentally devastated Copper Basin—near Ocoee Dam No. 1—the area was so barren the scar on the earth could be seen from outer space.

People Relaxing on Watts Bar Dam

Watts Bar Getaway

In 1950, after construction on Watts Bar Dam was complete, an enterprising Michigander bought up the construction workers’ housing and launched a wildly successful resort.

Great Falls

Odd Dam Out

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.

Canvas art at Fort Patrick Hendry Dam's Visitor Center

Art for the People

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.

Fort Loudoun

The Name Game

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.

Visitors at Fontana Dam

The Miracle in the Wilderness

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.

Douglas Dam

What Democracy Can Do

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.

Chickamauga Dam

Saving Chattanooga

Before Chickamauga Dam, Chattanooga—the Valley's most flood-prone city—suffered from massive economic damage and mosquito-borne health crises because of the untamed river.

Cherokee Dam

TVA Goes to War

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.

Chatuge Dam

A Dam for All Seasons

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.

Blue Ridge Dam

A Water Wonderland

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.

Watauga Dam

The Town That Wouldn’t Drown

Butler, Tenn., was constantly inundated with floodwaters from the Watauga River — that is, before TVA built Watauga Dam and moved the whole town to higher ground.

Recreation on the scenic reservoir Boone

Power for Peacetime

TVA’s wartime dam-building program was mighty, but demand for electricity didn’t stop with the ceasefire. Boone Dam, authorized in 1950, would help energize the baby boom.

South Holston Dam

“Weir” Science

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.

Fishing in Apalachia Dam

Wartime Dam Creates Angler’s Oasis

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.

Engineers working at Tellico Dam

Telling the Story of Tellico: It’s Complicated

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.

Nickajack Dam

The Great Replacement

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.

Normandy Dam

Non-Power Normandy

Despite the lack of hydropower, Normandy Dam on the Duck River has been a boon to Middle Tennessee, bringing economic development and recreation along with many other benefits.

Norris Dam

Design for the Public Good

As TVA brought public power to the Tennessee Valley, TVA architect Roland Wank put design to work for the people — starting with his visionary plan for Norris Dam.

A Man holding a rooster

“Paducah Bill” Moves to Guntersville

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.