Building Big Bend Dam - 1959-1964

Last Updated by Brian Gevik on
Courtesy: USACE

The Big Bend dam near Fort Thompson, South Dakota, is named for an unusual, horse-shoe-shaped bend in the Missouri River. The dam itself is unusual in that it's embankment is curved.

Big Bend dam was the last of the six great Missouri River dams built under the Pick-Sloan act of 1944. (The others are Fort Peck, Garrison, Oahe, Fort Randall, and Gavins Point.) The two mile long dam created Lake Sharpe, an 80-mile long reservoir with 200 miles of shoreline. Like other dams on the Missouri River, from Fort Peck in Montana to Gavins Point in southeastern South Dakota, the Big Bend was built to provide power, flood control, and recreational opportunities.

A film commissioned by the Army Corps of Engineers and produced by Historical Footprints of Lead, South Dakota describes the construction and operating details of the dam.

Images of the Past Building Big Bend Dam - 1959-1964 An Army Corps of Engineers film shows construction of a Missouri River Dam

The big dams have altered the natural condition of the Missouri River. In the interview below, Rick Clark, Superindent of the Missouri National Recreational River, talks about some of these changes, how they are being studied, and how river management plans have been and continue to be discussed and updated. (The Missouri National Recreational River is a unit of the National Park Service consisting of nearly 100 miles of largely unaltered and unrestricted river.)

SDPB Radio's "In the Moment" broadcast, Mon., Nov. 6, 2017.

Rick Clark, Superintendent of the Missouri National Recreational River

Host: Lori Walsh


"Personalities with Chuck Anderson"

Vintage radio interviews with well known and not so well known South Dakotans.

Personalities: Joe Foss

Radio host Chuck Anderson traveled to Joe Foss's Scottsdale, Arizona home in 1996 for an interview with one of the...

Personalities: Amy Burnett

Amy Burnett is one of the best South Dakota basketball players ever. Burnett grew up in Huron and led Huron High to...

Personalities: George Hall, Creator and Collector of South Dakota History

While many bookworms spend their time cocooned in public libraries and bookstores searching for the next great story,...

Personalities: The South Dakota State Fair

The South Dakota State Fair is different every year and yet it never really changes. It's a capstone experience for...

Personalities: From Huron High to Broadway

Singer, actor, and teacher Joseph Mahowald graduated from Huron High School in 1977. He went on to study music and...

Personalities: Gloria Mackoy, a Gospel Country Heart

Gloria Mackoy, a country gospel singer and songwriter and former De Smet resident, visited Chuck Anderson in-studio...

Personalities: Hazel Mahone, The Granddaughter of Slaves

For over 100 years, Hazel Mahone carried her grandparents' memories of surviving pre-civil war slavery. These...

Personalities: A Wagon Ride Through the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant

For over 49 years, De Smet, South Dakota has been the home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, attracting tourists...