Historic American Engineering Record: Theodore Roosevelt Dam

Author(s): Donald C. Jackson

Year: 1992


Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. AZ-6 examines the origins and construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam, the first major project to increase the Salt River Valley's water supply beyond that available from the "normal flow" of the Salt River in south-central Arizona. Sponsored by the Arizona Projects Office of the Bureau of Reclamation, this HAER documentation was undertaken because the Roosevelt Dam was dramatically altered in the early 1990s. The alteration served to increase the dam's height by approximately 77 feet. This was accomplished by adding a reinforced concrete extension that completely encased the original masonry structure.

Roosevelt Dam comprises the key structure in one of the first major federally sponsored reclamation project in the West. Authorized as one of the Reclamation Service's first projects in 1903, it continues to store water for agricultural lands, homeowners and industrial concerns in the Phoenix region that are served by the Salt River Project. Used to impound the floodwaters of the Salt River, the 280-foot-high Roosevelt Dam was distinguished as the tallest and last major stone masonry gravity dams at the time of its completion. It was intended to be the flagship of the Reclamation Service, a symbol of government permanency,stability and power.

This HAER report focuses on the historical significance of Theodore Roosevelt Dam and on its technological nature and features. It discusses 1) the development of irrigation in Western America through the late 19th century; 2) water resources development activity in the Phoenix area leading up to the selection of the Roosevelt Dam as one of the Reclamation Service's first major projects; 3) dam technology development through the early 20th century, with special attention focusing on gravity dam design; 4) the design of the Roosevelt Dam; 5) preliminary site work necessary before construction of the dam proper could begin; 6) the actual dam construction process, outlining the numerous setbacks and delays, and the role of labor at the dam site; and 7) the success of the dam in the context of original prognostications and actual performance. The report contains a narrative description, drawings, maps, and historic photographs of Theodore Roosevelt Dam.

Several books and articles discussing the social, political, and economic histories of Roosevelt Dam are also available. The most notable works Karen Smith's The Magnificent Experiment: Building the Salt River Reclamation Project, 1890-1917 and Earl Zarbin's Roosevelt Dam: A History to 1911.

Cite this Record

Historic American Engineering Record: Theodore Roosevelt Dam. Donald C. Jackson. 1992 ( tDAR id: 393143) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8930V8Q

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1906 to 1911 (Theodore Roosevelt Dam construction)

Calendar Date: 1912 to 1955 (Additional history of the Salt River Project after Roosevelt Dam construction)

Calendar Date: 1870 to 1903 (History of water rights, use, and irrigation along the Salt River in the Phoenix and Tonto Basins prior to Roosevelt Dam)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -111.188; min lat: 33.654 ; max long: -111.148; max lat: 33.684 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): USDI Bureau of Reclamation, Phoenix Area Office

Contributor(s): Richard Lynch

Sponsor(s): USDI Bureau of Reclamation, Phoenix Area Office

Prepared By(s): FRASERdesign

Submitted To(s): USDI Bureau of Reclamation, Phoenix Area Office

Record Identifiers

Historic American Engineering Record No.(s): AZ-6

NADB document id number(s): 2203114

Bureau of Reclamation Contract No.(s): 8-CS-30-05990

NADB citation id number(s): 000000167218


Redaction Note: Sensitive information has been removed from the publicly accessible digital copy of this report. The following figures and/or sections (and page numbers) have been redacted: Figure 3 (pg 15), Figure 4 (pg 16), Figure 5 (pg 33), Figure 6 (pg 34), Figure 7 (pg 36), Figure 8 (pg 39), Figure 9 (pg 40), Figure 10 (pg 44), Figure 13 (pg 64), Appendix, Figures 1-A to 21-A (pgs 109 - 129). Please contact the archaeologist at the USDI Bureau of Reclamation, Phoenix Area Office to obtain a complete digital copy of the report.

File Information

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