Gavins Point Dam - Omaha District US Army Corps of Engineers

OMAHA DISTRICT

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Location: Glasgow, Mont., River Mile 1771.5

Fort Peck Dam is the first dam built in the upper Missouri River Basin. The area surrounding Fort Peck was first charted by Lewis and Clark in 1804, and the pristine natural condition of the river and surrounding area awed the renowned explorers.

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Fort Peck Dam is the first dam built in the upper Missouri River Basin. The area surrounding Fort Peck was first charted by Lewis and Clark in 1804, and the pristine natural condition of the river and surrounding area awed the renowned explorers.

The Old Fort Peck trading post was built in 1867 on a narrow ledge of shale about 35 feet above the river, its rear wall abutting the hillside. The front of the stockade was so close to the ledge that it was an effective steamboat landing for sternwheelers that made frequent trips upstream. But the site of the old stockade was lost to the river near the turn of the century.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the Fort Peck project in 1933, thousands of people from all over the country migrated to Montana during the midst of the Great Depression in hopes of earning a living. More than 7,000 men and women signed on to work on the dam in 1934 and 1935. Employment peaked at nearly 11,000 dam workers in 1936, and thousands more swarmed to Montana to set up businesses including food markets, hardware stores, butcher shops, general stores, saloons and brothels. More than eighteen boomtowns sprang up in the vicinity, and the "wild west" was reborn as a tiny and obscure township swelled from a population of a few hundred to nearly 40,000 people.

Maj. Clark C. Kittrell, who served as Corps of Engineers deputy district engineer at Fort Peck from 1933 to 1937 and as the district engineer from 1937 to 1940, defined the complexity of the mission: "No engineering job of this magnitude had ever been attempted with so short a time for planning."

New techniques had to be learned and developed as rapidly as ingenuity would allow. Countless technical problems arose and were solved. A shipyard, created on site, quickly turned out the "Fort Peck Navy," which would dredge the river bottom and pump the slurry that formed the dam. Workers overcame a massive slide in 1938, a year after closure was made, and with completion of the dam in sight. The last load of material was dumped in October 1940, almost seven years to the day after FDR’s authorization.

The legacy that is Fort Peck provides visitors a fascinating look into yesteryear. The town of Fort Peck, now an independent municipality, is a rare treasure. Neither progress nor modernization can erase the etchings of time that allow visitors a glimpse back at another era.

Many of the early buildings - some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Building - still stand, symbols of a distant past, with an integrity that allows them to function yet today.

The vast size of Fort Peck Lake and its remoteness from major population centers provide a variety of high quality outdoor experiences. Popular recreation activities include camping, boating, fishing, hunting, sight-seeing, picnicking, biking, hiking, photography, watching wildlife and just relaxing.

Fifteen hundred miles of pristine shoreline serve as a haven for those wishing to get away from the stresses of modern life. There are 27 recreation areas located around the reservoir. The areas near and around the dam offer paved roads, electricity, showers and playgrounds while facilities around the rest of the lake are more primitive with gravel roads, picnic tables and vault toilets. Access roads to many of the remote areas may be impassable in inclement weather.

Fort Peck Lake enjoys nationwide recognition as a hot spot for walleye fishing. The lake also offers excellent fishing for sauger, smallmouth bass, lake trout, chinook salmon and northern pike. The introduction of cisco as a forage fish in 1983 proved successful and has increased both the size and number of game fish.

The Fort Peck Lake Area and the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge provide superb hunting of deer, elk, big horn sheep, and prong horn. The Missouri River Breaks are known for producing large elk and other game animals.

Additional information on fishing and hunting can be obtained by contacting the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.

  • From Glasgow, MT, take Highway 24 south 17 miles to Fort Peck.
  • From Nashua, MT take Highway 117 south 12 miles to Fort Peck

Fort Peck Interpretive Center exhibits include wildlife of the C. M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, paleontology; including a cast of the Tyrannosaurus Rex known as Peck’s Rex, Fort Peck Dam construction history, boomtowns and homesteading. The center also showcases the two largest aquariums in Montana, displaying native and game fish of Fort Peck Lake and the Missouri River.

The center’s interpretive programs, theater presentations, amphitheater programs and nature hikes covering a variety of topics are presented weekly throughout the summer.

The Center is connected to the Kiwanis Park Day Use Area and the Downstream Campground by a network of more than 3 miles of paved nature trails. The trails are a popular birding and wildlife viewing winding along the Missouri River and surrounding wooded area. Other amenities in this area include three fishing ponds, playground equipment, horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, basketball court, picnic tables and picnic shelters.

Visitor Center Hours: The Fort Peck Interpretive Center is operated through a cooperative effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

  • May through September:
    • Weekdays: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    • Weekends: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Off-season Hours:
    • October: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    • November: Tuesday to Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    • December through February:  Call (406) 526-3493 or (406) 526-3411.  Facility open during weekdays by advance appointment only, please call at least 48 hours in advance to schedule a time to visit the Interpretive Center.
    • March and April: Tuesday to Friday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Due to increased security, powerhouse tours begin at the Fort Peck Interpretive Center. Visitors must sign up 15 minutes prior to the tour and visitors over 18 years old must show a government issued photo ID. The powerhouse museum is only included on the powerhouse tour.

Tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day:

  • Weekdays: Four times daily from 9:30 a.m.; 11:30 a.m.; 1:30 p.m.; and 3:30 p.m.
  • Weekends: Every hour beginning 9:30 a.m. The last tour begins at 4:30 p.m.
  • Labor Day to September 30: Two times daily 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
  • Off-season or groups of 10 or more: Call (406) 526-3493. Tours are by advance appointment only, please call at least 48 hours in advance to schedule an off season tour.

Fort Peck News Releases


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Boaters and swimmers reminded to wear life jackets

Before you head out for a day on or near the water, you're encourage to make sure you have life jackets for everyone and that they please wear them. On average, 9 out of 10 people who drowned at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake or river project didn’t wear a life jacket. Life jackets save lives by keeping you afloat and providing time for rescue. [Read More]
Published: May-23-14

National Safe Boating Week, May 17-23, 2014

National Safe Boating Week, May 17-23, 2014, is the official launch of the 2014 Safe Boating Campaign. This yearlong campaign promotes safe and responsible boating and the value of life jacket wear by recreational boaters. [Read More]
Published: May-15-14

Tyrannosaurus Rex to embark on cross country journey

The USACE Omaha District’s Wankel T.rex will soon travel from Montana, where it has resided for the past 66 million years, to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Mont., home to the T.rex since it was excavated in 1990, will host a free, public sendoff April 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is planning a number of events, beginning April 15, to welcome the T. rex to the Nation’s Capital. Be sure to follow the Wankel T.rex's journey through our social media outlets at #trexroadtrip [Read More]
Published: Apr-01-14

Fort Peck Interpretive Center announces winter schedule

The Fort Peck Interpretive Center will operate under an appointment-based system this winter due to low seasonal visitation and budget constraints. The Center will not have set hours for the months of December, January and February. Groups who would like to use the meeting room or individuals and families who want to tour the facility will need to make an appointment in advance during weekdays by calling the Interpretive Center at (406) 526-3493 or the Project Office at (406) 526-3411. [Read More]
Published: Dec-02-13
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