Today's Diminished Falls

Page 11 of 11

Aerial photo of grand fall

© 2000 Jim Wark

Since 1915, when the dam was completed, the powerhouse at right of center has occupied nearly one-third of the portion of the cateract that Lewis called "the grandest sight I ever beheld." In springtime, when melting snow in the Rocky Mountains fills the reservoir to overflowing, the neat curtain of water draping the 72-foot-high spillway1 dwarfs what remains of Lewis's "sublimely grand object."


1. In 1915 the dam was named Volta. After the powerhouse was expanded in 1940, the dam was renamed Ryan Dam, in honor of John D. Ryan (1864-1933), victor in the storied "war of the copper kings" who consolidated the giant Anaconda Copper Company, founder of the Montana Power Company, and an influential figure in state and national politics.

The author appreciates the assistance of Bill O'Keefe, formerly superintendent of Montana Power Company dams on the Missouri River.