The Guntersville Dam is one of the three hydroelectric structures on the Tennessee River.
It is located in north Alabama, in Marshall County, and sets seven miles northwest of the city of Guntersville.
Completed in the year 1939, it has one major distinction that makes it unique from other like man-made structures; the lake it created.
More commonly referred to as Guntersville Lake, it is the state’s largest lake, at 69,100 acres.
It stretches a whopping 75 miles from the Dam and runs all the way to the Nickajack Dam.
The Tennessee Valley Authority began the construction of the Guntersville Dam in December of 1935, and it was completed in January of 1939.
Before the building of this huge structure, the Tennessee River was way too shallow to get around many areas in and around the city.
To make matters even worse, with heavy summer rains came floods, causing severe crop losses for the local farmers.
Several years prior to its construction, officials recommended building a dam 5 miles upstream, for its current location.
However, congress would not allocate money for it until 1935, when the Tennessee Valley Authority was established.
They agreed, along with the United States Army Corp of Engineers, USACE, and as part New Deal Project, to build the dam.
The main goals of the New Deal Project were very basic, and included creating a continuous navigational channel along the entire length of the Tennessee River.
It also had the goals of preventing flooding to help farming, as well as electricity generation.
Building the Guntersville Dam has numerous challenges, and it all started with the land needed to build such a structure.
The federal government needed to get the land, so they purchased over 110,000 acres, including 24,000 plus acres of timber land.
The trees were then cut, but this was just the start of the challenges.
They also had to move about 1,200 families, as well as graves and cemeteries to higher land, to make way for this project.
The houses were moved using rollers, and older farmhouses and buildings were simply burned.
The USACE also had to raise what is now U.S Highway 431, in order to preserve the main route through the city of Guntersville.
Building the Guntersville Dam used a lot of concrete and steel, as well as manpower, and here are some of the numbers.
Once the structure was completed and the reservoir it created filled with water, it surrounded the city, basically leaving it setting on a peninsula.
Officially completed and the Guntersville Lake filled, the city officials and the residents decided to have a celebration.
They made the decision to have a hydroplane boat race in the summer of 1939, and it drew over 60,000 people.
The Guntersville Dam has two locks.
At the time of its construction the USACE built a 60 by 350-foot lock and replaced it in 1965 with a 110 by 600-foot lock.
This was necessary to handle the increased barge traffic on the river.
The main lock at the dam can lift and lower boats as well as barges, up to 600 feet in length.
It can also raise vessels up to 45 feet in height, and this accounts for the differences in elevation between Lake Guntersville and the nearby Wheeler Lake.
It commonly takes about 45-60 minutes to go through the lock, and commercial traffic has priority.
However, the lock operators try to accommodate recreational boats on every third lock, and the traffic there has been very steady for years.
Here are some of the facts about the Guntersville Dam that are quite interesting.
The Guntersville Dam and the lake it has made is considered one of the best fishing lakes in the south.
In fact, the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society as well as the Field and Stream magazine, think very highly of it.
They have named the lake one of the finest sports fishing lakes in the country, and the best in Alabama.
It is not only famous for its Bass, as it also contains Bluegill, Crappies, Perch, Sunfish, as well as Drum.
While Bass are very popular, Crappie also leads the list as the most popular fish.
If you have never visited the Guntersville Dam and its gorgeous lake, you are missing of the best of the Alabama Backroad trips.
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