Norfork Dam

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Norfork Dam Norfork Dam, Arknasas.jpg
Norfork Dam

Norfork Dam is a large dam in northern Arkansas southeast of Mountain Home. It dams North Fork River and creates Norfork Lake. The top of the dam supports a 2-lane roadway, part of AR 177.

Dam A barrier that stops or restricts the flow of surface or underground streams

A dam is a barrier that stops or restricts the flow of water or underground streams. Reservoirs created by dams not only suppress floods but also provide water for activities such as irrigation, human consumption, industrial use, aquaculture, and navigability. Hydropower is often used in conjunction with dams to generate electricity. A dam can also be used to collect water or for storage of water which can be evenly distributed between locations. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. The earliest known dam is the Jawa Dam in Jordan, dating to 3,000 BC.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.

Mountain Home, Arkansas City in Arkansas, United States

Mountain Home is a city in, and the county seat of, Baxter County, Arkansas, United States, in the southern Ozark Mountains near the northern state border with Missouri. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 12,448. A total of 41,307 persons lived within the city and micropolitan area combined, which encompasses the majority of Baxter County.



In the late 1930s, before construction of the Norfork Dam had begun, the local economy of Baxter County, Arkansas was deteriorating. The yearly per capita income had fallen to between one-hundred and two-hundred dollars, and in 1940 alone more than six hundred small farms were abandoned. Those who remained looked forward with enthusiasm to any solution that promised relief from their economic problems. Mountain Home, Arkansas, then the largest community, was described as having no prospect for new business and very few paved roads. When construction of the dam finally began in the spring of 1941 it was said that, "before the first shovel of dirt was thrown, or the first tree dozed down, the Mountain Home people knew that a new era had dawned" United States, History of the Corps of Engineers. As the largest nearby community, Mountain Home was to derive the most spectacular benefit for the Corps projects in the area. Centrally located between both Norfork and Bull Shoals Dam, few of its citizens could foresee the economic change Norfork Dam would bring to the poor agricultural community (Messick).

Baxter County, Arkansas County in the United States

Baxter County is a county in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the county's population was 41,513. The county seat is Mountain Home. It is Arkansas's 66th county, formed on March 24, 1873, and named for Elisha Baxter, the tenth governor of Arkansas.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

United States Army Corps of Engineers federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world's largest public engineering, design, and construction management agencies. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works throughout the world. The Corps of Engineers provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the public, and provides 24% of U.S. hydropower capacity.

Clyde T. Ellis, who defeated Claude Fuller in 1938 to become the representative for the third district, envisioned a smaller Arkansas version of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Ellis made Norfork Dam his personal project and fought for it until construction began in the spring of 1941. Having won the election with the promise of cheap hydroelectricity, he hoped the dams would give rise to industry and lift the region out of the depths of depression. Ellis firmly believed that if Norfork Dam was built then the other dams would follow. Authorization for construction of the dam was included as part of the flood control act of June 28, 1938. Norfork Dam was to be one of six dams built to accomplish flood control in the White River basin. The act was later revised in 1941 to include Bull Shoals and Table Rock.

Clyde T. Ellis American politician

Clyde Taylor Ellis was an American politician and a U.S. Representative from Arkansas.

Claude A. Fuller American politician

Claude Albert Fuller — was an American, a lawyer, farmer, member of Arkansas State House of Representatives from 1903–05, and of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 3rd District of Arkansas from 1929-39.

Tennessee Valley Authority American utility company

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federally owned corporation in the United States created by congressional charter on May 18, 1933, to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development to the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected by the Great Depression. The enterprise was a result of the efforts of Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska. TVA was envisioned not only as a provider, but also as a regional economic development agency that would use federal experts and electricity to more quickly modernize the region's economy and society.

Power generation

Power generation was not originally included in the project purpose for Norfork Dam. However, this was unacceptable to the people of Baxter County and the surrounding region. The sparse population of the area did not justify investment, by private companies, in a large network of power lines. It was believed that, if the dam did not include power generation, it could be many years before the region would gain service. While most citizens would have accepted any type of government project to help boost the economy, a large delegation from the region met in Harrison, Arkansas to insist that power generation be included in the project purpose. The Baxter County delegation wanted to pass a resolution that would have expressed opposition to any dam that did not include hydroelectric power facilities. They feared that the cost/benefit ratio would not justify congressional expenditure unless power generation was included, and the dam would never be built. However, the Batesville, Arkansas delegation was able to convince the assembly that the resolution may be interpreted as general opposition to the dam and it never passed. They believed that the population and economic growth brought by the construction of the dam would make it feasible for power companies to move in. As it happened the citizens of Baxter County need not have worried. Shortly after construction began Congress, under the threat of impending war, authorized construction of the power house and two out of the four generators for Norfork Dam (Messick).

Harrison, Arkansas City in Arkansas, United States

Harrison is a city in Boone County, Arkansas, United States. It is the county seat of Boone County. It is named after General Marcus LaRue Harrison, a surveyor that laid out the city along Crooked Creek at Stifler Springs. According to 2017 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city was 13,079, up from 12,943 at the 2010 census and it is the 30th largest city in Arkansas based on official 2017 estimates from the US Census Bureau. Harrison is the principal city of the Harrison Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Boone and Newton counties.

Batesville, Arkansas City in Arkansas, United States

Batesville is the county seat and largest city of Independence County, Arkansas, United States, 80 miles (183 km) northeast of Little Rock, the state capital. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the city was 10,268. The city serves as a regional manufacturing and distribution hub for the Ozark Mountain region and Northeast Arkansas. This small town in the foothills of the Ozarks offers a diverse view from Ramsey Hill at the Southside to the vast Plains in the East.


Built on the North Fork River, Norfork Dam was one of the six largest concrete dams in the country at the time of its construction. All preliminary investigation, the final design of the structure, and the preparation of construction plans and specs was carried out under the supervision of Lieutenant Colonel Stanley L. Scott. Much work had to be done before construction could begin on the massive structure. First, a suitable location had to be found before any other type of work could begin. Because of the large number of caves in the region foundation exploration, using diamond tipped drills, was carried out for nearly a year before plans were completed. Once a site was selected, a nearby source of sufficient materials for construction had to be located. Since the site was acceptable for either an earth or concrete dam, the types of construction materials and their locations would be the deciding factor in determining what type of dam would be built. The decision to build a concrete dam was made because sufficient quantities of concrete aggregate could be located near the construction site, while there was insufficient material for an earth dam. The detailed design of the dam, construction plans and specifications were prepared by the design section of the engineering division under Mr. G.R. Schneider.

The North Fork River or the North Fork of White River is a 109-mile-long (175 km) tributary of the White River, into which it flows near Norfork, Arkansas.

Norfork Dam Norfork Dam, 2005.jpg
Norfork Dam

The construction contracts for the dam were awarded to the Morrison-Knudsen company and the Utah Construction Company. Both companies had participated in the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam and Hoover Dam. Construction began in the spring of 1941 with the removal of 400,000 cubic yards (310,000 m3) of earth to expose the bedrock foundation and an additional 28,000 cubic yards (21,000 m3) had to be removed to stabilize it. This was accomplished using draglines and power shovels. Most of the smaller aggregate used in construction was removed from the sand and gravel bars of a twenty-mile (32 km) section of the White River. A quarry and crushing plant was required to create nearly 800,000 tons of larger aggregate. Between thirty-five hundred and four thousand people came to witness the first blast to be made on Norfork Dam. Touted by advertisers as the biggest blast in the world; many of the spectators were sorely disappointed when the blast finally occurred. They had been made to believe that the entire cliff was going to be blown away. After the event, construction officials said no one had ever intended to do this and apologized for the disappointment (Blevins; Scott).

Grand Coulee Dam gravity dam

Grand Coulee Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington, built to produce hydroelectric power and provide irrigation water. Constructed between 1933 and 1942, Grand Coulee originally had only two powerhouses. The third powerhouse, completed in 1974 to increase energy production, makes Grand Coulee the largest power station in the United States by nameplate-capacity at 6,809 MW.

Hoover Dam hydroelectric dam on the Colorado River, United States

Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Nevada and Arizona. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives. Originally known as Boulder Dam from 1933, it was officially renamed Hoover Dam, for President Herbert Hoover, by a joint resolution of Congress in 1947.

Norfork Dam is a gravity dam; this means that it resists the thrust of water entirely by its own weight. This takes enormous amounts of concrete which can be expensive; however, many engineers prefer the solid strength of gravity dams to arch dams or buttress dams. For example, Norfork Dam and the powerhouse cost approximately 28,600,000 dollars; a very large sum of money in the early 1940s. It was constructed in sections, called monoliths, ranging from forty to fifty-four feet in length and not exceeding five feet in height (Scott).

The completion of the dam had an immediate effect; with freedom from the fear of floods many people began to reoccupy farms downstream of the dam. Ironically the areas most affected by seasonal flooding were those covered by the reservoir, and the dam had little effect on flooding of the White River. However, not everyone was happy with the construction of the dam, nearly four-hundred people had to be removed from one of the most heavily populated and prosperous regions of Baxter County to make room for the reservoir. The government only paid people for their land if they had structures on it. As a result, many people did not get paid for their land when it was covered. In fact, one man who thought he had lake front property paid taxes on it until 2004 when he realized that his property was underwater (Andrewson).

Effect of Norfork Dam on Baxter County

From the very beginning Norfork Dam has brought tourists to Baxter County and the surrounding area, and with them an economic prosperity that no one could have dreamed of at the time.

Norfork Lake

Norfork Lake
Norfork Dam2.jpg
Norfork Dam
Location Baxter County, Arkansas,
United States
Coordinates 36°20′42″N92°14′06″W / 36.345°N 92.235°W / 36.345; -92.235 (Norfork Lake)
Type reservoir
Basin  countriesUnited States
Surface area22,000 acres (8,900 ha)
Max. depth178 ft (54 m) (at normal pool)
Shore length1550 mi (890 km)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Norfork Lake covers 22,000 acres (8,900 ha) with more than 550 miles (890 km) of shoreline. There are 19 recreational parks on the lake that provide places for camping, hiking, picnicking, swimming, boating, and water skiing. Commercial docks on Norfork Lake provide boats, motors, diving equipment, and guides to the lake.

Most of the lake lies within Baxter County, Arkansas, with its Northernmost portion in Ozark County, Missouri.

Bass, crappie, walleye, catfish, and bream are all found on the lake with almost all other varieties of fresh water game fish. Below the dam, North Fork River has a superb population of trout. The Norfork National Fish Hatchery maintains a continuous supply of trout.

See also


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    Coordinates: 36°14′53″N92°14′15″W / 36.24806°N 92.23750°W / 36.24806; -92.23750