Wilson Dam, on the Tennessee River in northwest Alabama, is the only neoclassical-style dam in the TVA system, integrating themes of ancient Roman and Greek architecture into the modern structure.
The construction of Wilson Dam began in 1918, a year after the United States entered World War I. The federal government built two nitrate plants at Muscle Shoals for the making of explosives, and Wilson Dam was constructed to supply the electricity needed to power the plants. TVA acquired Wilson Dam in 1933.
Visitors enjoy camping, boating and fishing at Wilson Reservoir, which is known as the Smallmouth Capital of the World for the trophy smallmouth bass caught there.
The dam reservation site features a network of hiking and walking paths, including Old First Quarters Small Wild Area, named after a complex that housed engineers during Wilson’s construction. Small feeder creeks run through the natural area, forming an ideal habitat for a variety of ferns, including the walking fern, a rarity in Alabama.
Wilson Reservoir—together with Pickwick and Wheeler reservoirs—covers the treacherous Muscle Shoals, which once blocked navigation on the Tennessee River.
Located off Reservation Road in Muscle Shoals, the Visitor Center is accessible year-round. Display panels near the power plant describe the struggle between private and public power interests for ownership of the Shoals facilities, which TVA acquired when the corporation was created in 1933.