The construction of Fort Peck Dam was funded by the PWA (Public Works Administration) as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The 250-foot-tall, 21,026-foot-long dam began being built in 1933 and was completed in 1940. It is the highest of six major dams along the Missouri River and is one of the largest hydraulically filled earth dams in the world.
Fort Peck Dam was named for old Fort Peck, which was a trading post on the Missouri River built in 1867.
Fort Peck Dam’s spillway is a massive structure that was designed to discharge a maximum of 250,000 cubic feet of water per second. It consists of a wide approach channel, a concrete gate structure mounting 16 vertical lift gates (each 25 feet high and 40 feet wide), a mile-long concrete-lined channel at the end of which is a concrete cut-off structure, and an unlined stilling section from which the discharged water will return to the Missouri River.
Construction of the spillway involved the excavation of 14 million yards of dirt and shale and the laying of 560,000 cubic yards of concrete and 55 million pounds of steel. More than ten thousand workers were employed at the height of the dam’s construction and dozens of boomtowns sprang up to support them all.
The Fort Peck Theatre was built in 1934 as an amenity for the tens of thousands of dam workers and their families. It was added to the national Register of Historic Places in 1983 and remains in use today.
The Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center showcases northeast Montana and features the two largest aquariums in Montana displaying the fish of Fort Peck Lake and the Missouri River. It also contains a life-size model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex that was discovered in the area in 1997.
Currently, Fort Peck Dam can generate more than 1 billion kilowatt hours of power in an average year and the reservoir that it produces (Fort Peck Lake) is a popular recreation spot for the state.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, there are 46 different fish species that inhabit Fort Peck Reservoir.