Mississippi River Dams – Things you need to Know

The Mississippi River, a mighty waterway prolonging for thousands of miles, has been utilized for centuries due to its advantageous positioning.

From providing power to supplying irrigation and navigation channels, it has been essential in sustaining many communities.

To make the most of this invaluable resource, numerous dams have been built along the river’s course in order to regulate water levels for multiple uses.

In this article, we will discuss interesting facts about these dams, their impact on the locals, and why their water levels are so important. So keep reading to learn more!

Mississippi River Dams

List of Dams on the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is a waterway of immense importance to the United States, acting as a vital artery that connects many states and offers a wealth of benefits to people, plants, and animals alike.

Along its length are numerous dams that have been built over the years, each with its own purpose – ranging from controlling river levels and protecting against flooding to generating hydroelectric power.

Let’s take a look at some of the most remarkable dams on the Mississippi River.

Red Rock Dam

Constructed in 1965, the Red Rock Dam is located near Des Moines, Iowa.

Olmsted Lock and Dam

Built in 2018, this two-unit dam spans a 1.7-mile stretch of river between Illinois and Kentucky.

Upper St Anthony Falls Dam

This two-unit dam dates back to 1963 and is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Melvin Price Dam

Located near Alton, Illinois, this two-unit dam was completed in 1973.

Herbert Hoover Dam

Located around Lake Okeechobee in Florida, this dam was built between 1963 and 1980.

Alvin R. Benson Dam

This dam is located in Atchafalaya, Louisiana, and was completed in 1992.

Grand Prairie Dam

Located near Greenville, Mississippi, this two-unit dam was constructed in 1945.

St Francisville Dam

This two-unit dam is located near St Francisville, Louisiana, and was completed in 1968.

Bonnet Carré Dam

This dam was built in 1931 near New Orleans to provide flood protection for the city by diverting water into Lake Pontchartrain.

Mississippi River Dams Water Levels

The water levels in the Mississippi River Dams are currently normal or slightly above normal. The reservoirs and lakes upstream of the dams are all currently near their maximum summer pool level as seasonal rains have kept these water bodies full throughout the summer months.

Downstream, however, flooding continues to cause problems for many communities along the river.

The Army Corps of Engineers is carefully managing flows from dams in order to prevent further inundation, but more heavy rains could worsen flooding conditions. Flood warnings remain in effect along many parts of the river.

Why Are There Dams on the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is home to several dams that serve multiple purposes. These dams provide flood control, allowing downstream communities such as Memphis and New Orleans to be safeguarded from potential disasters.

Additionally, many of these dams generate hydroelectric power, serving as backup energy sources when needed.

Recreational facilities are also created by the dams, giving locals opportunities for fishing, boating, and other activities which contribute to the local economy.

Lastly, these dams make the river more navigable, enabling increased commercial trade in the area.

Largest Dams on the Mississippi River

The mighty Mississippi River serves as a crucial water source for two-thirds of the United States, providing essential sustenance to its diverse array of flora and fauna. To manage the flow of this great river, multiple dams have been erected over time.

Upper St. Anthony Falls Dam, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota is the largest – measuring 815 feet wide with 26 large radial gates. Red Rock Dam in Des Moines, Iowa follows close behind, standing 775 feet across and boasting 16 radial gates.

Lastly, Hannibal Dam near St. Louis, Missouri stands 725 feet wide, equipped with 18 radial valves. Completed in 1972, this is the third-largest dam on the Mississippi River.

How Many Dams Are on the Mississippi River and Its Tributaries?

Along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, there is a total of 4,226 dams, varying in size from small irrigation ponds to expansive hydroelectric powerhouses.

The Missouri, White, and Ohio rivers make up the main feeders into the Mississippi and have the highest concentration of these structures.

In addition to this impressive number of dams, over 200 locks keep water levels consistent for navigation, which is a vital part of the commercial transport network on both the mainstem and its tributaries.

These locks guarantee swift and secure passage up and down the river.

10 Facts About the Mississippi River

  1. The Mississippi River is the fourth longest river in the world, spanning over 2,300 miles from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to its mouth near New Orleans in Louisiana.
  2. It is the primary drainage basin for an area of 1.2 million square miles, encompassing all or parts of 31 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.
  3. It has more than 10,000 tributaries that contribute to the main stem, including its largest—the Missouri River.
  4. The first steamboat journey on the Mississippi River occurred in 1811 when the New Orleans departed from Pittsburgh heading southbound.
  5. The river forms parts of numerous borderlines, including the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
  6. There are over 200 bridges that span the river along its length—the most famous of which is the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
  7. The Mississippi River Delta covers an area of nearly 15,000 square miles at the mouth of the river and is one of the largest deltas in the world.
  8. Over 500 species of fish can be found in the Mississippi River, including catfish, bass, carp, and paddlefish.
  9. The first lock and dam system on the river was built at Sault Sainte Marie in 1895 to facilitate navigation along the river.
  10. The Mississippi River is an important source of drinking water and irrigation for many states in the Midwest, with an estimated 39 million people depending on it for their daily needs.


1 thought on “Mississippi River Dams – Things you need to Know”

  1. Save the Snake River Dams !!! We in the region DEPEND ON IT FOR OUR DAILY NEEDS, Irrigation, Agriculture, Recreation, the lakes cool the temperature in summer, provide $millions in recreation and tourism, important transportation of barges for agricultural products and commodities (relieves truck and train traffic), flood control, reservoir provides wildfire fighting water. SAVE THE DAMS


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