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Building Big Bend Dam - 1959-1964
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Big Bend Dam
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.

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.)