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Denison Dam

Location: Denison, TX, USA
Date: 1943
Creator(s): Clay, Lucius

The largest rolled-earth fill dam in the world at the time of its completion, Denison Dam eventually served as a prototype for dam construction in future U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects throughout the arid plains of the American Southwest. Procedures and equipment developed during its construction are now commonplace in the sampling and testing of soils.

In particular, the on-site laboratory at Dension Dam served as the model for the  Corps' Southwest Division Lab in Dallas, Texas, which has analyzed soils for more than 75 large dam projects and is considered a world leader in clay testing.

Designed originally to control flooding on the Red River and provide hydroelectric power during World War II, Denison Dam also contributed significantly to recreational opportunities and water-supply storage in neighboring areas of Texas and Oklahoma through the creation of a reservoir, Lake Texoma, that holds nearly six million acre-feet of water.


  • Denison Dam contains a total of 18.8 million cubic yards of rolled-earth fill. It produces roughly 250,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year, while Lake Texoma provides nearly 125,000 acre-feet of water storage for local communities under five permanent contracts. 
  • In addition to two federally managed wildlife-refuge areas, Denison Dam has made possible 47 recreational areas managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, two state parks -- one in Oklahoma and one in Texas -- as well as 80,000 acres of open public land used for hunting. 
  • One of the most notable pieces of equipment developed at the Denison Dam soil laboratory is the Denison Barrel, a sampling device six inches in diameter used to obtain undisturbed samples in heavy clay. 
  • Prior to managing the Denison Dam project, chief engineer Major General Lucius D. Clay served in the Philippines with General Douglas MacArthur. After serving during World War II as Director of Material for the Army, he became Chairman and CEO of Continental Can Company and went on to become a Senior Partner with Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street investment banking firm. In 1976, General Clay was honored with the first President's Award presented by the American Society of Civil Engineers. 


The Denison Dam was the largest rolled-earth fill dam in the United States when it was constructed from 1939 to 1943.
Tags: Era: 1940-1949
Innovation designated by:
Denison Dam
Courtesy Flickr/Robert Nunnally (CC BY 2.0)
Denison Dam
Red River
Farm to Market 1310 (0.4 mi SW)
Denison, TX, USA

Red River

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