World’s Most Famous Dams

Hot dam! People love to visit large feats of hydro-engineering. Here are some of the world’s most significant dams.

Once known as the Boulder Dam, the Hoover Dam mainstay of Nevada tourism. Straddling the Colorado River across the Black Canyon, the dam, which was completed in 1936, connects Arizona and Nevada. During the construction of the dam, workers were brought in to the sparsely populated city of Las Vegas while working on the dam. The city truly opened its hospitality to the exclusively male workforce, providing alcohol, gambling and dancing girls. These immoral pursuits eventually led to the establishment of a camp at Lake Mead, the lake impounded by the construction of the dam, where workers were settled and the big city vices were not allowed.


After decades of construction, China has built the world’s largest hydroelectric dam across the Yangtze River: the Three Gorges Dam. The project was a controversial one. Planning began as far back as 1932, and actual construction took place between 1994 and 2011. The dam displaced approximately 1.24 million people at the dam site and surrounding areas (which would be impounded by the damming), but the expected lifespan of the dam could be as little as 70 years. Furthermore, the Yangtze is a culturally significant river for the Chinese people, knowns for its natural beauty and revered as a life-giving waterway.
Perhaps the most artistic dam on the list is Guri Dam in Bolivar State, Venezuela. The dam features immensely high walls and enough powerful generators to provide the same amount of energy, per day, as 300, 000 barrels of oil. Local artist and cultural icon Alejandro Otero built a rotating kinetic art sculpture nearby the dam, while inside Carlos Cruz Diez outfitted one of the machine rooms in a colourful pattern of vertical bars.

Award for the sturdiest dam on the list goes to Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam in Khakassia, Russia. It stretches across the Yenisei River, the largest river that flows into the Arctic Ocean, and while it does not produce a remarkable amount of energy, the dam set a Guinness World Record for being the strongest dam in the world – strong enough to withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake. Tragedy struck the dam and surrounding area in 2009 when a turbine explosion killed seventy-five people and spilled forty tonnes of oil.

The most industrious member of the animal kingdom, the beaver, has constructed a monumental home worth travelling to see. In Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, Canada the paddle-tailed little rodents have built 850 meters of residential dam, which was first captured on Google Earth. The dam, which contains two separate beaver lodges deep inside, is in the middle of the park’s vast wetlands and, as such, hasn’t been subject to much disruption.

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