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11 of America's grandest dams

By: Matt Hickman on Feb. 13, 2017, 11:31 a.m.
Hoover Dam aerial view

Photo: turtix/Shutterstock

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Dam great

Reservoir creating. Electricity producing. Flood preventing. To tweak a song title from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," there is nothing like a dam.

In a country where thousands of man-made structures have been erected to impound rivers and other bodies of water, a select few dams have managed to demand the public's attention. These are game-changing dams, seemingly impossible feats of engineering and innovation that have inspired, intrigued and, in some cases, infuriated, like the famed Hoover Dam, pictured.

These man-made marvels are structures with a myriad of benefits and negative impacts. Just as they are extreme in size and strength, dams can be extreme in their detriment — they are often dangerous, dated and responsible for the destruction of vital natural ecosystems. And dam removal projects — the world's largest to date, the 2012 demolition of Glines Canyon Dam, was carried out as an ecosystem restoration project on the Elwha River within Washington's Olympic National Park — are increasing in number.

Negative impacts aside, we've rounded up the 11 grandest American dams that are remarkable in their scope, size and historical significance. You've been directly impacted by these dams — whether you realize it or not. These are the dams that keep the lights on, irrigate the crops that we eat and create the massive lakes where we frolic on summer vacation. These are the dams that, for better or worse, have helped to shape America.

Editor's note: This file was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated with new information.