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Hungry Horse Dam
Hungry Horse Dam is located in USA West
Hungry Horse Dam
Hungry Horse Dam is located in Montana
Hungry Horse Dam
Location in western United States##Location in Montana
Location Flathead County, near Hungry Horse, Montana, U.S.
Coordinates 48°20′28″N 114°00′50″W / 48.341°N 114.014°W / 48.341; -114.014
Construction began April 21, 1948
Opening date July 18, 1953
69 years ago
Operator(s) U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Concrete thick arch dam
Impounds South Fork Flathead River
Height 564 ft (172 m)
Length 2,115 ft (645 m)
Width (crest) 34 feet (10.4 m)
Width (base) 320 feet (98 m)
Dam volume 2,934,500 cu yd (2,243,600 m3)
Spillway type Gated Morning Glory
Spillway capacity 50,000 cu ft/s (1,400 m3/s)
Creates Hungry Horse
Total capacity 3,467,179 acre feet (4.28 km3)
Catchment area 1,640 square miles (4,200 km2)
Normal elevation 3,560 feet (1,085 m)
above sea level
Power station
Type Conventional
Hydraulic head 520 ft (160 m)
Turbines 4 x 107 MW Francis turbines
Installed capacity 428 MW
Annual generation 1,086,250,400 KWh (2012)

Hungry Horse Dam is an arch dam in the western United States, on the South Fork Flathead River in the Rocky Mountains of northwest Montana. It is located in Flathead National Forest in Flathead County, about fifteen miles (24 km) south of the west entrance to Glacier National Park, nine miles (14 km) southeast of Columbia Falls, and twenty miles (32 km) northeast of Kalispell. The Hungry Horse project, dam, and powerplant are operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The entrance road leading to the dam is located in Hungry Horse.

The purposes of the Hungry Horse Project authorized by law are irrigation, flood control, navigation, streamflow regulation, hydroelectric generation, and other beneficial uses such as recreation. However, no irrigation facilities were built and the project has no irrigation obligations. Hydroelectric power generation and flood control are the primary purposes of the dam. The dam, reservoir, and surrounding area are used for recreation. However, the once great lower gorge (Montana's best whitewater) lies submerged underneath.

Dimensions and statistics


At 564 feet (172 m) in height, the dam was the third largest and second highest concrete dam in the world at the time of its completion in 1953, with a volume of 3,100,000 cubic yards (2,400,000 m3). The dam's spillway is the highest morning glory structure in the world. The spillway is controlled by a 64-by-12-foot (19.5 by 3.7 m) ring gate. The surface elevation of the reservoir is 3,560 feet (1,085 m) above sea level.


Hungry Horse Dam under construction 2 - 9-15-1951
Dam under construction (September 1951)

Construction was authorized by the Act of June 5, 1944 (58 Stat. 270, Public Law 78-329). In April 1948, Reclamation awarded the $43.4 million dam construction contract to Morrison Knudsen, General Construction Company, and Shea Company. The Guy F. Atkinson Company won the contract to divert the river during dam construction. Two timber companies, Wixson and Crowe and J. H. Trisdale, cleared seven thousand acres to make way for the reservoir. Construction officially began with a weekend of ceremonies in June 1948. In September 1949, workers poured the first concrete. The project eventually used 3 million cubic yards of concrete. Engineers adopted air-entrained concrete to reduce the effect of freeze-thaw cycles and to make the material more stable and workable. They also incorporated fly ash into the concrete mix. Hungry Horse was the first dam built with these innovations. The construction claimed the lives of 23 men.

Construction was completed on July 16, 1953. At a ceremony on October 1, 1953, President Harry S. Truman threw a switch to start power generation. The road across the dam opened to the public on November 2, 1953.

Hydroelectric power generation

The project contributes to hydroelectric power generation not only at Hungry Horse Dam, but by storing and releasing water for use by downriver hydroelectric dams on the Flathead, Clark Fork, Pend Oreille, and Columbia rivers. About a billion kilowatt–hours are generated annually at Hungry Horse Dam, while in an average year the release water will generate about 4.6 billion kilowatt–hours of power as it passes through the series of downstream powerplants.

Power generating facilities at Hungry Horse Dam are housed in a building constructed across the river channel at the downstream toe of the dam. The original design included four 71,250-kilowatt generators—a total of 285 megawatts installed capacity. The generator capacity was uprated in the 1990s to 107,000 kilowatts each for a total capacity of 428 megawatts.

Nearby and downstream, an aluminum production plant was constructed in the mid-1950s, northeast of Columbia Falls.


The Hungry Horse Reservoir is fed by a number of smaller creeks and streams, including:

West side:

  • Alpha Creek
  • Beta Creek
  • Doris Creek
    • Endor Creek
  • Lost Johnny Creek
  • Alice Creek
  • Maggie Creek
  • Wounded Buck Creek
  • Lid Creek
  • Argall Creek
  • Elya Creek
  • Flossy Creek
  • Clayton Creek
  • Knieff Creek
  • Emma Creek
  • Pearl Creek
  • Mazie Creek
  • Graves Creek
  • Baker Creek
  • Emperor Creek
  • Forest Creek
  • Wheeler Creek
  • Czar Creek
  • Heinrude Creek
  • Sullivan Creek
    • Quintonkon Creek
    • Battery Creek
  • Clark Creek
  • Elam Creek

East side:

  • Emery Creek
  • Hungry Horse Creek
  • Solander Creek
  • Fire Creek
  • Spring Meadow Creek
  • Ada Creek
  • Ryle Creek
    • Seagrid Creek
    • Dudley Creek
  • Riverside Creek
  • Murray Creek
  • McInernie Creek
  • Deep Creek
    • Ruby Creek
  • Clorinda Creek
  • Canyon Creek
  • Harris Creek
  • Felix Creek
  • Paint Creek
  • Betty Creek
  • Logan Creek
  • South Fork Logan Creek
  • Devils Corkscrew Creek
  • Hoke Creek
  • Baptiste Creek
  • Deadhorse Creek
  • Peters Creek
  • Brush Creek
  • Dry Park Creek
  • South Fork Dry Park Creek
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