Big Bend Dam and Lake Sharpe


In South Dakota, the Missouri River is impounded by four large dams, of which the last to be completed was the Big Bend Dam. Constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1959-64, the rolled-earth dam is approximately 10,570 feet long and reaches a maximum height of 95 feet from the stream bed to the top of the dam. The dam formed Lake Sharpe, which is 80 miles long, has 200 miles of shoreline, and goes to a depth of 95 feet. Water released from the three upstream dams is stored in Lake Sharpe for the production of hydroelectric power. The total output of the dam's eight turbines is 468,000 kilowatts.

Activity Details

Activity Type:Trips and Destinations
Discipline:Civil, Environmental
Topic(s):Electricity
Grade:K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Time:Full day

Fun Fact:Before being "tamed," the Missouri River was known for its shifting channels, high turbidity, and periodic floods. Today, 1/3 of the river is channelized; 1/3 is impounded by 6 large dams; and 1/3 consists of remnant "free-flowing" stretches. Just 1% of the river's entire length has truly remained uncontrolled by humans.