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Roosevelt Dam - Apache Trail, Arizona

Photo and article: National Historic Landmarks Program & Sunset Route Ltd. ©2007

One of the original five federal projects authorized on March 13, 1903, under the Reclamation or Newlands Act of 1902, Roosevelt Dam was the first major project to be completed under the new federal reclamation program. This, the world's highest masonry dam, was started in 1906 and completed in 1911. The beginning of federal production of electric power occurred at Roosevelt Dam when Congress, in 1906, authorized the Reclamation Service to develop and sell hydroelectric power at the Salt River Project.

The Reclamation Act of 1902 created the United States Reclamation Service whose purpose was to design and construct irrigation projects to aid the settlement of the arid west. Previous efforts by individuals and private irrigation companies were inadequate and often unsuccessful. With the creation of the Reclamation Service, the lead role of the federal government in developing large-scale irrigation projects was firmly established.

Roosevelt Dam, as originally conceived and built, was to be a symbol of success and a showpiece for the new agency. Completed at a cost of 10 million dollars, the primary function of the dam was to provide water storage for the Salt River irrigation project and flood control for the Salt River Valley. The dam contributed more than any other dam in Arizona to the settlement of Central Arizona and to the development of large-scale irrigation there. A secondary purpose of the dam was to generate a moderate amount of hydroelectric power. The lake created behind Roosevelt Dam, known as Lake Roosevelt, contained more than a million acre-feet of water and was the world's largest artificial lake.


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© 2007 - Sunset Route Limited is a private organization and is not affiliated with any business, non-profit organization, or individual along the Apache Trail.