The Lock & Dam is located on the Arkansas River. The Arkansas River is 1,469 miles long and begins in the Rocky Mountains near Leadville, Colorado. It’s starting elevation is 9,728 ft above sea level, and runs as a steep mountain river through the Rockies dropping 4,600 feet in just 120 miles. This section of the river includes areas such as, The Numbers near Granite, Colorado, Brown’s Canyon, and the Royal Gorge. All these places are known for great whitewater rafting in the spring and summer. At Canon City, Colorado the river widens and flattens out, and just west of Pueblo, Colorado enters into the Great Plains. Here the river is wide and has shallow banks which can lead to seasonal flooding. In Arkansas the river runs near mountainous terrain, such as Mt. Nebo and Petit Jean Mountain. The river valley widens and becomes more shallow just before Little Rock, and then continues on through the plains and forests of eastern Arkansas until it reaches the Mississippi River. The mouth of the Arkansas River is located at Franklin Township, near Napoleon, Arkansas. The elevation of the river at the mouth of the Mississippi is 108 ft above sea level. So, from it’s starting point, in the Rocky Mountains, to the Mississippi River, the Arkansas River drops by an elevation of 9620 ft. Impressive indeed.
In 1899 the Rivers and Harbors Act firmly placed authority for improvements to rivers and harbors into the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It wasn’t until 1946 that The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System was authorized. This began the construction of 5 lock systems in Arkansas and 2 in Oklahoma to control the river, and make it possible for goods to be transported by way of the river.
Construction of the Dardanelle Lock, Dam, and Powerhouse began in June 1957 and was completed in November, 1969. Today, this river navigation system is one of the largest economic generators and recreation providers in the United States. Products shipped along the Arkansas River include: Iron, Steel, Fertilizer, Chemicals, Petrol Products, Coal, Sand, Gravel, Building Materials, Soybeans, Farm Products, and Machinery.
The Dardanelle Power Plant, located at the far side of the dam, from where I was today, is a run-off-the-river plant. A hydroelectric power plant, such as this one, uses the energy of moving water to turn turbines which generate electricity. Water is built up behind a dam and released when power is needed. The water rushes through a large “tube” called a penstock to a fan-like device called a turbine. The rushing water spins the blades, which turn a generator to make electricity. Then the water flows back into the river below the dam. The dam has four, 40 megawatt Kaplan-type generating units. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the Dardanelle facility is capable of producing over 100,000 megawatt hours of electricity a month. With the average home using 1,200 kilowatts per month this is enough electricity for over 80,000 homes. Dardanelle typically produces the most electricity of the seven plants in the Little Rock District. Another great thing about Hydropower is it is the least costly and cleanest source of electric power. Which definitely makes it a win win situation for the environment.
I really enjoyed my visit to the Dardanelle Lock and Dam today, and I hope you enjoyed reading about the Arkansas River, and the Power plant.