The operations of Wheeler Dam help to cover the infamous Muscle Shoals, the rock formations that had blocked navigation on the Tennessee River. To keep commerce on the river flowing, the lake level can vary only by a matter of feet from winter to summer.
Wheeler Reservoir is named for Joseph Wheeler, a general in the army of the Confederacy, leader of U.S. volunteers in the Spanish-American War and U.S. congressman.
Wheeler is one of nine reservoirs that create a stairway of navigable water on the Tennessee River from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Paducah, Kentucky. Wheeler—along with Wilson and Pickwick reservoirs downstream—helps cover the rocky Muscle Shoals.
Today, Wheeler Reservoir is a major recreation and tourist center. Along with camping, boating and fishing, visitors enjoy the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, located several miles upstream from the dam. The refuge features Alabama’s only significant concentration of wintering Canada geese.
Barge traffic on Wheeler has made it one of the major centers along the Tennessee waterway for shoreline industrial development. Private industry has invested about $1.3 billion in the waterfront plants and terminals at Decatur, Ala., the largest city on the reservoir and a significant inland port.
Wheeler: Facts + Figures
- Construction of Wheeler Dam began in 1933 and was completed in 1936. It was the second dam TVA built, finished only seven months after Norris.
- Wheeler Dam is 72 feet high and stretches 6,342 feet across the Tennessee River.
- Wheeler Dam is a hydroelectric facility. It has 11 generating units with a summer net dependable capacity of 402 megawatts. Net dependable capacity is the amount of power a dam can produce on an average day, minus the electricity used by the dam itself.
- Wheeler Reservoir has 1,027 miles of shoreline and 67,070 acres of water surface.
- The reservoir has a flood-storage capacity of 326,500 acre-feet.
- To maintain the water depth required for navigation, the minimum winter elevation for the reservoir is 550.5 feet. The typical summer operating range is between 555 and 556 feet.
- Wheeler has two locks, one 110-by-600 feet and the other 60-by-360 feet. They lift and lower barges as much as 52 feet between Wheeler and Wilson reservoirs.
- Find Wheeler Dam at 24455 AL Hwy. 101, Town Creek, Ala.
More Information on Wheeler Reservoir
The Unified Development of the Tennessee River plan
stressed TVA was to provide flood control, navigation and electricity for the region. TVA’s dams are tangible evidence of its primary mission: improving life in the Tennessee Valley. We’re celebrating the plan with an in-depth look at 32 of the dams it comprises.
The TVA Quilt
A modernistic quilt, made in the 1930s by the wives of men working on Wheeler Dam near Muscle Shoals, Ala., represents the support and guidance of the African-American community by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Read more about this groundbreaking design.