Situated in Glasgow, Montana, the Fort Peck Dam was one of Franklin Roosevelt’s largest and most ambitious public works project. It employed over 10,000 people in a time when the state was seeing its own Great Depression—a whopping ten years before the rest of the country followed suit. Severe drought gutted the state’s economy, but the construction of the largest manmade hydraulic dam in the world brought jobs, industry, and celebrity.
The Fort Peck Dam is the highest of six major dams along the Missouri River. It is just over 21,000 feet long and just over 250 feet high, creating the Fort Peck Lake—the fifth largest man-made lake in the U.S. Its shoreline is longer than the state of California’s coastline. Currently, the dam has a nameplate capacity of 185.25 megawatts.
Though the Fort Peck Dam is a shining gem at the heart of Montana’s history, its construction is rife with tragedy. In 1930, the embankment collapsed, sinking railroad tracks and dredge pipes. The disaster devoured both men and machines, and 5 million cubic yards of dirt slid into the reservoir. This dirt created an island, which is visible to this day. Eight men were killed, six of whom are still buried somewhere in the reservoir. Two years later, the dam was completed and has since proven to be both safe and reliable.
If you choose to visit this historic and culturally significant landmark, you will need to drive through several miles of back roads. To ensure safety and efficiency, we recommend driving a vehicle with four-wheel drive. In addition to visiting the reservoir and dam, visitors may also fish.